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Title: Mary Lamb
Author: Gilchrist, Anne Burrows
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Internet Archive/European Libraries



MARY LAMB

BY

MRS. GILCHRIST


_Eminent Women Series_
EDITED BY JOHN H. INGRAM


LONDON:
W. H. ALLEN & CO., 13 WATERLOO PLACE. S.W.
1883.



PREFACE.

I am indebted to Mrs. Henry Watson, a granddaughter of Mr. Gillman,
for one or two interesting reminiscences, and for a hitherto
unpublished "notelet" by Lamb (p. 248), together with an omitted
paragraph from a published letter (p. 84), which confirms what other
letters also show,--that the temporary estrangement between Lamb and
Coleridge was mainly due to the influence of the morbid condition of
mind of their common friend, Charles Lloyd.

My thanks are also due to Mr. Potts for some bibliographic details
respecting the various editions of the _Tales from Shakespeare_.

Reprinted here, for the first time, is a little essay on _Needle-work_
(regarded from an industrial, not an "art" point of view), by Mary Lamb
(p. 186), unearthed from an obscure and long-deceased periodical--_The
British Lady's Magazine_--for which I have to thank Mr. Edward Solly,
F.R.S.

The reader will find, also, the only letter that has been preserved
from Coleridge to Lamb, who destroyed all the rest in a moment of
depression (pp. 24-6). This letter is given, without exact date or name
of the person to whom it was addressed, in Gillman's unfinished _Life
of Coleridge_, as having been written "to a friend in great anguish of
mind on the sudden death of his mother," and has, I believe, never
before been identified. But the internal evidence that it was to Lamb
is decisive.

In taking Mary as the central figure in the following narrative, woven
mainly from her own and her brother's letters and writings, it is to
that least explored time, from 1796 to 1815--before they had made the
acquaintance of Judge Talfourd, Proctor, Patmore, De Quincey, and other
friends, who have left written memorials of them--that we are brought
nearest; the period, that is, of Charles' youth and early manhood. For
Mary was the elder by ten years; and there is but little to tell of the
last twenty of her eighty-three years of life, when the burthen of age
was added to that of her sad malady.

The burial-register of St. Andrew's, Holborn, in which church-yard
Lamb's father, mother and aunt Hetty were buried, shows that the father
survived his wife's tragic death nearly three years instead of only a
few months as Talfourd, and others following him, have supposed. It is
a date of some interest because not till then did brother and sister
begin together their life of "double singleness" and entire mutual
devotion. Also, in sifting the letters for facts and dates, I find that
Lamb lived in Chapel Street, Pentonville not, as Talfourd and Proctor
thought, a few months, but three years, removing thither almost
immediately after the mother's death. It is a trifle, yet not without
interest to the lovers of Lamb, for these were the years in which he
met in his daily walks, and loved but never accosted, the beautiful
Quakeress "Hester," whose memory is enshrined in the poem beginning
"When Maidens such as Hester die."

                                                    ANNE GILCHRIST.
Keats Corner, Hampstead.



CONTENTS.


 CHAPTER I.                                                          PAGE
 Parentage and Childhood.                                              1

 CHAPTER II.
 Birth of Charles.--Coleridge.--Domestic Toils and Trials.--Their
 Tragic Culmination.--Letters to and from Coleridge.                  18

 CHAPTER III.
 Death of Aunt Hetty.--Mary removed from the Asylum.--Charles
 Lloyd.--A Visit to Nether Stowey, and Introduction to Wordsworth
 and his Sister.--Anniversary of the Mother's Death.--Mary ill
 again.--Estrangement between Lamb and Coleridge.--Speedy
 Reconcilement.                                                       36

 CHAPTER IV.
 Death of the Father.--Mary comes Home to live.--A Removal.--First
 Verses.--A Literary Tea-Party.--Another Move.--Friends increase.     55

 CHAPTER V.
 Personal Appearance and Manners.--Health.--Influence of Mary's
 Illnesses upon her Brother.                                          64

 CHAPTER VI.
 Visit to Coleridge at Greta Hall.--Wordsworth and his Sister in
 London.--Letters to Miss Stoddart.--Coleridge goes to Malta.--Letter
 to Dorothy Wordsworth on the Death of her Brother John.              81

 CHAPTER VII.
 Mary in the Asylum again.--Lamb's Letter with a Poem of hers.--Her
 slow Recovery.--Letters to Sarah Stoddart.--The _Tales from
 Shakespeare_ begun.--Hazlitt's Portrait of Lamb.--Sarah's
 Lovers.--The Farce of _Mr. H._                                       99

 CHAPTER VIII.
 The _Tales from Shakespeare_.--Letters to Sarah Stoddart.           118

 CHAPTER IX.
 Correspondence with Sarah Stoddart.--Hazlitt.--A Courtship and
 Wedding at which Mary is Bridesmaid.                                129

 CHAPTER X.
 _Mrs. Leicester's School_.--A Removal.--_Poetry for Children._      158

 CHAPTER XI.
 The Hazlitts again.--Letters to Mrs. Hazlitt.--Two Visits to
 Winterslow.--Mr. Dawe, R.A.--Birth of Hazlitt's Son.--Death of
 Holcroft.                                                           170

 CHAPTER XII.
 An Essay on Needle-work.                                            185

 CHAPTER XIII.
 Letters to Miss Betham and her little Sister.--To Wordsworth.
 --Manning's Return.--Coleridge goes to Highgate.--Letter to Miss
 Hutchinson on Mary's state.--Removal to Russell Street.--Mary's
 Letter to Dorothy Wordsworth.--Lodgings at Dalston.--Death of John
 Lamb and Captain Burney.                                            195

 CHAPTER XIV.
 Hazlitt's Divorce.--Emma Isola.--Mrs. Cowden Clarke's _Recollections_
 of Mary.--The Visit to France.--Removal to Colebrook Cottage.--A
 Dialogue of Reminiscences.                                          217

 CHAPTER XV.
 Lamb's Ill-health.--Retirement from the India House, and subsequent
 Illness.--Letter from Mary to Lady Stoddart.--Colebrook Cottage
 quitted.--Mary's constant Attacks.--A Home given up.--Board with the
 Westwoods.--Death of Hazlitt.--Removal to Edmonton.--Marriage of
 Emma Isola.--Mary's sudden Recovery.--Ill again.--Death of
 Coleridge.--Death of Charles.--Mary's Last Days and Death.          235



CHAPTER I.

Parentage and Childhood.

1764-1775.--Æt. 1-10.


The story of Mary Lamb's life is mainly the story of a brother and
sister's love; of how it sustained them under the shock of a terrible
calamity and made beautiful and even happy a life which must else have
sunk into desolation and despair.

It is a record, too, of many friendships. Round the biographer of Mary
as of Charles, the blended stream of whose lives cannot be divided
into two distinct currents, there gathers a throng of faces--radiant
immortal faces some, many homely every-day faces, a few almost
grotesque--whom he can no more shut out of his pages, if he would give
a faithful picture of life and character, than Charles or Mary could
have shut their humanity-loving hearts or hospitable doors against
them. First comes Coleridge, earliest and best beloved friend of all,
to whom Mary was "a most dear heart's sister"; Wordsworth and his
sister Dorothy; Southey; Hazlitt who, quarrel with whom he might,
could not effectually quarrel with the Lambs; his wife, also, without
whom Mary would have been a comparatively silent figure to us, a
presence rather than a voice. But all kinds were welcome so there were
but character; the more variety the better. "I am made up of queer
points," wrote Lamb, "and I want so many answering needles." And of
both brother and sister it may be said that their likes wore as well
as most people's loves.

Mary Anne Lamb was born in Crown Office Row, Inner Temple, on the 3rd
of December 1764--year of Hogarth's death. She was the third, as
Charles was the youngest, of seven children all of whom died in
infancy save these two and an elder brother John, her senior by two
years. One little sister Elizabeth, who came when Mary was four years
old, lived long enough to imprint an image on the child's memory
which, helped by a few relics, remained for life. "The little cap with
white satin ribbon grown yellow with long keeping and a lock of light
hair," wrote Mary when she was near sixty, "always brought her pretty
fair face to my view so that to this day I seem to have a perfect
recollection of her features."

The family of the Lambs came originally from Stamford in Lincolnshire,
as Charles himself once told a correspondent. Nothing else is known of
Mary's ancestry; nor yet even the birth-place or earliest
circumstances of John Lamb the father. If, however, we may accept on
Mr. Cowden Clarke's authority, corroborated by internal evidence, the
little story of _Susan Yates_, contributed by Charles to _Mrs.
Leicester's School_, as embodying some of his father's earliest
recollections, he was born of parents "in no very affluent
circumstances" in a lonely part of the Fen country, seven miles from
the nearest church an occasional visit to which, "just to see how
_goodness thrived_," was a feat to be remembered, such bad and
dangerous walking was it in the fens in those days, "a mile as good as
four." What is quite certain is that while John Lamb was still a child
his family removed to Lincoln, with means so straitened that he was
sent to service in London. Whether his father were dead or, sadder
still, in a lunatic asylum--since we are told with emphasis that the
hereditary seeds of madness in the Lamb family came from the father's
side--it is beyond doubt that misfortune of some kind must have been
the cause of the child's being sent thus prematurely to earn his bread
in service. His subsequently becoming a barrister's clerk seems to
indicate that his early nurture and education had been of a gentler
kind than this rough thrusting out into the world of a mere child
would otherwise imply: in confirmation of which it is to be noted that
afterwards, in the dark crisis of family misfortune, an "old
gentlewoman of fortune" appears on the scene as a relative.

In spite of early struggles John Lamb grew up

    A merry cheerful man. A merrier man,
    A man more apt to frame matter for mirth,
    Mad jokes and antics for a Christmas-eve,
    Making life social and the laggard time
    To move on nimbly, never yet did cheer
    The little circle of domestic friends.

Inflexibly honest and upright too, with a dash of chivalry in his
nature; who is not familiar with his portrait as "Lovel" in _The
Benchers of the Inner Temple_? Elizabeth his wife, a native of Ware,
whose maiden name was Field, was many years younger than himself. She
was a handsome, dignified-looking woman; like her husband fond of
pleasure; a good and affectionate mother, also, in the main, yet
lacking insight into the characters of her children--into Mary's at
any rate, towards whom she never manifested that maternal tenderness
which makes the heart wise whatever the head may be. Mary, a shy,
sensitive, nervous, affectionate child, who early showed signs of a
liability to brain disorder, above all things needed tender and
judicious care. "Her mother loved her," wrote Charles in after years,
"as she loved us all, with a mother's love; but in opinion, in feeling
and sentiment and disposition bore so distant a resemblance to her
daughter that she never understood her right--never could believe how
much _she_ loved her--but met her caresses, her protestations of
filial affection too frequently with coldness and repulse. Still she
was a good mother. God forbid I should think of her but most
respectfully, most affectionately. Yet she would always love my
brother above Mary, who was not worthy of one-tenth of that affection
which Mary had a right to claim."

John, the eldest, a handsome, lively, active boy, was just what his
good looks and his being the favourite were likely to make of a not
very happily endowed nature. "Dear little selfish craving John" he was
in childhood, and dear big selfish John he remained in manhood;
treated with tender indulgence by his brother and sister who
cheerfully exonerated him from taking up any share of the burthen of
sorrow and privation which became the portion of his family by the
time he was grown up and prosperously afloat.

A maiden aunt, a worthy but uncanny old soul whose odd silent ways and
odder witch-like mutterings and mumblings coupled with a wild look in
her eyes as she peered out from under her spectacles, made her an
object of dread rather than love to Mary as afterwards to Charles in
whom she garnered up her heart, completed the family group but did not
add to its harmony for she and her sister-in-law ill agreed. They were
in "their different ways," wrote Mary, looking back on childhood from
middle-life, "the best creatures in the world; but they set out wrong
at first. They made each other miserable for full twenty years of
their lives. My mother was a perfect gentlewoman; my aunty as unlike a
gentlewoman as you can possibly imagine a good old woman to be; so
that my dear mother (who, though you do not know it, is always in my
poor head and heart), used to distress and weary her with incessant
and unceasing attention and politeness to gain her affection. The old
woman could not return this in kind and did not know what to make of
it--thought it all deceit, and used to hate my mother with a bitter
hatred; which, of course, was soon returned with interest. A little
frankness and looking into each other's characters at first would have
spared all this, and they would have lived as they died, fond of each
other for the last ten years of their lives. When we grew up and
harmonised them a little, they sincerely loved each other."

In these early days Mary's was a comfortable though a very modest
home; a place of "snug fire-sides, the low-built roof, parlours ten
feet by ten, frugal boards, and all the homeliness of home"; a
wholesome soil to be planted in which permitted no helplessness in the
practical details of domestic life; above poverty in the actual though
not in the conventional sense of the word. Such book-learning as fell
to her lot was obtained at a day-school in Fetter Lane, Holborn,
where, notwithstanding the inscription over the door, "Mr. William
Bird, Teacher of Mathematics and Languages," reading in the
mother-tongue, writing and "ciphering" were all that was learned. The
school-room looked into a dingy, discoloured garden, in the passage
leading from Fetter Lane into Bartlett's Buildings; and there boys
were taught in the morning and their sisters in the afternoon by "a
gentle usher" named Starkey, whose subsequent misfortunes have rescued
him and Mary's school-days from oblivion. For, having in his old age
drifted into an almshouse at Newcastle, the tale of his wanderings and
his woes found its way into print and finally into Hone's _Every Day
Book_, where, meeting the eyes of Charles and Mary Lamb, it awakened
in both old memories which took shape in the sketch called _Captain
Starkey_.

"Poor Starkey, when young, had that peculiar stamp of old-fashionedness
in his face which makes it impossible for a beholder to predict any
particular age in the object. You can scarce make a guess between
seventeen and seven-and-thirty. This antique caste always seems to
promise ill-luck and penury. Yet it seems he was not always the abject
thing he came to. My sister, who well remembers him, can hardly forgive
Mr. Thomas Ranson for making an etching so unlike her idea of him when
he was at Mr. Bird's school. Old age and poverty, a life-long poverty
she thinks, could at no time have effaced the marks of native gentility
which were once so visible in a face otherwise strikingly ugly, thin,
and careworn. From her recollections of him, she thinks that he would
have wanted bread before he would have begged or borrowed a halfpenny.
'If any of the girls,' she says, 'who were my school-fellows should be
reading through their aged spectacles tidings from the dead of their
youthful friend Starkey, they will feel a pang as I do at having teased
his gentle spirit.'

"They were big girls, it seems, too old to attend his instructions
with the silence necessary; and, however old age and a long state of
beggary seems to have reduced his writing faculties to a state of
imbecility, in those days his language occasionally rose to the bold
and figurative, for, when he was in despair to stop their chattering,
his ordinary phrase was, 'Ladies, if you will not hold your peace, not
all the powers in heaven can make you.' Once he was missing for a day
or two; he had run away. A little, old, unhappy-looking man brought
him back--it was his father, and he did no business in the school that
day but sat moping in a corner with his hands before his face; the
girls, his tormentors, in pity for his case, for the rest of the day
forbore to annoy him.

"'I had been there but a few months,' adds she, 'when Starkey, who was
the chief instructor of us girls, communicated to us a profound
secret, that the tragedy of Cato was shortly to be acted by the elder
boys, and that we were to be invited to the representation.' That
Starkey lent a helping hand in fashioning the actors she remembers;
and, but for his unfortunate person, he might have had some
distinguished part in the scene to enact. As it was he had the arduous
task of prompter assigned to him and his feeble voice was heard clear
and distinct repeating the text during the whole performance. She
describes her recollection of the caste of characters even now with a
relish:--Martia, by the handsome Edgar Hickman, who afterwards went to
Africa, and of whom she never afterwards heard tidings; Lucia, by
Master Walker, whose sister was her particular friend; Cato, by John
Hunter, a masterly declaimer but a plain boy, and shorter by a head
than his two sons in the scene, &c. In conclusion, Starkey appears to
have been one of those mild spirits which, not originally deficient in
understanding, are crushed by penury into dejection and feebleness. He
might have proved a useful adjunct, if not an ornament to society, if
fortune had taken him into a very little fostering; but wanting that
he became a captain--a by-word--and lived and died a broken bulrush."

But the chief and best part of Mary's education was due to the fact
that her father's employer, Mr. Salt, had a good library "into which
she was tumbled early" and suffered to "browse there without much
selection or prohibition." A little selection, however, would have
made the pasturage all the wholesomer to a child of Mary's sensitive
brooding nature; for the witch-stories and cruel tales of the
sufferings of the martyrs on which she pored all alone, as her brother
did after her, wrought upon her tender brain and lent their baleful
aid to nourish those seeds of madness which she inherited; as may be
inferred from a subsequent adventure.

When tripping to and from school or playing in the Temple Gardens Mary
must sometimes, though we have no record of the fact, have set eyes on
Oliver Goldsmith: for the first ten years of her life were the last of
his; spent, though with frequent sojourns elsewhere, in the Temple.
And in the Temple churchyard he was buried, just ten months before the
birth of Charles.

The London born and bred child had occasional tastes of joyous,
healthful life in the country, for her mother had hospitable relatives
in her native county, pleasant Hertfordshire. Specially was there a
great-aunt married to a substantial yeoman named Gladman living at
Mackery End within a gentle walk of Wheathampstead, the visits to whom
remained in Mary's memory as the most delightful recollections of her
childhood. In after life she embodied them, mingling fiction with
fact, in a story called _Louisa Manners or the Farm House_ where she
tells in sweet and child-like words of the ecstasy of a little
four-year-old girl on finding herself for the first time in the midst
of fields quite full of bright shining yellow flowers with sheep and
young lambs feeding; of the inexhaustible interest of the farm-yard,
the thresher in the barn with his terrifying flail and black beard,
the collecting of eggs and searching for scarce violets ("if we could
find eggs and violets too, what happy children we were"); of the
hay-making and the sheep-shearing, the great wood fires and the
farm-house suppers.

This will recall to the reader Elia's _Mackery End_; how, forty years
afterwards, brother and sister revisited the old farm-house one day in
the midst of June and how Bridget (so he always called Mary in print)
"remembered her old acquaintance again; some altered features, of
course, a little grudged at. At first, indeed, she was ready to
disbelieve for joy; but the scene soon re-confirmed itself in her
affections, and she traversed every out-post of the old mansion, to
the wood-house, the orchard, the place where the pigeon-house had
stood (house and birds were alike flown), with a breathless impatience
of recognition which was more pardonable perhaps than decorous at the
age of fifty odd. But Bridget in some things is behind her years."

"... The only thing left was to get into the house, and that was a
difficulty which to me singly would have been insurmountable, for I am
terribly shy in making myself known to strangers and out-of-date
kinsfolk. Love, stronger than scruple, winged my cousin in without me;
but she soon returned with a creature that might have sat to a sculptor
for the image of Welcome.... To have seen Bridget and her,--it was like
the meeting of the two scriptural cousins! There was a grace and
dignity, an amplitude of form and stature answering to her mind in this
farmer's wife, which would have shined in a palace...."

To return to the days of childhood, Mary also paid visits to her
maternal grandmother Field, housekeeper to the Plumers at their
stately but forsaken mansion of Blakesware; but here the pleasure was
mingled with a kind of weird solemnity. Mary has left on record her
experiences in a tale which forms a sort of pendant to _Blakesmoor in
H----shire_ by Elia. Her story is called _Margaret Green, the Young
Mahometan_, also from _Mrs. Leicester's School_ and, apart from a
slight framework of invention ("Mrs. Beresford," her grandmother,
being represented as the owner instead of housekeeper of the mansion),
is minutely autobiographical. "Every morning when she (Mrs. Beresford)
saw me she used to nod her head very kindly and say 'How do you do,
little Margaret?' But I do not recollect that she ever spoke to me
during the remainder of the day, except indeed after I had read the
psalms and the chapters which was my daily task; then she used
constantly to observe that I improved in my reading and frequently
added, 'I never heard a child read so distinctly.' When my daily
portion of reading was over I had a taste of needle-work, which
generally lasted half an hour. I was not allowed to pass more time in
reading or work, because my eyes were very weak, for which reason I
was always set to read in the large-print family Bible. I was very
fond of reading, and when I could, unobserved, steal a few minutes as
they were intent on their work, I used to delight to read in the
historical part of the Bible; but this, because of my eyes, was a
forbidden pleasure, and the Bible being never removed out of the room,
it was only for a short time together that I dared softly to lift up
the leaves and peep into it. As I was permitted to walk in the garden
or wander about the house whenever I pleased, I used to leave the
parlour for hours together, and make out my own solitary amusement as
well as I could. My first visit was always to a very large hall,
which, from being paved with marble, was called the Marble Hall. The
heads of the twelve Cæsars were hung round the hall. Every day I
mounted on the chairs to look at them and to read the inscriptions
underneath, till I became perfectly familiar with their names and
features. Hogarth's prints were below the Cæsars. I was very fond of
looking at them and endeavouring to make out their meaning. An old
broken battledore and some shuttle-cocks with most of the feathers
missing were on a marble slab in one corner of the hall, which
constantly reminded me that there had once been younger inhabitants
here than the old lady and her grey-headed servants. In another corner
stood a marble figure of a satyr; every day I laid my hand on his
shoulder to feel how cold he was. This hall opened into a room full of
family portraits. They were all in dresses of former times; some were
old men and women, and some were children. I used to long to have a
fairy's power to call the children down from their frames to play with
me. One little girl in particular, who hung by the side of the glass
door which opened into the garden, I often invited to walk there with
me; but she still kept her station, one arm round a little lamb's neck
and in her hand a large bunch of roses. From this room I usually
proceeded to the garden. When I was weary of the garden I wandered
over the rest of the house. The best suite of rooms I never saw by any
other light than what glimmered through the tops of the window-shutters,
which, however, served to show the carved chimney-pieces and the curious
old ornaments about the rooms; but the worked furniture and carpets of
which I heard such constant praises I could have but an imperfect sight
of, peeping under the covers which were kept over them by the dim light;
for I constantly lifted up a corner of the envious cloth that hid these
highly praised rareties from my view.

"The bedrooms were also regularly explored by me, as well to admire
the antique furniture as for the sake of contemplating the tapestry
hangings which were full of Bible history. The subject of the one
which chiefly attracted my attention was Hagar and her son Ishmael.
Every day I admired the beauty of the youth, and pitied the forlorn
state of him and his mother in the wilderness. At the end of the
gallery into which these tapestry rooms opened was one door which,
having often in vain attempted to open, I concluded to be locked;
and finding myself shut out, I was very desirous of seeing what
it contained and, though still foiled in the attempt, I every day
endeavoured to turn the lock, which, whether by constantly trying I
loosened, being probably a very old one, or that the door was not
locked but fastened tight by time, I know not; to my great joy, as I
was one day trying the lock as usual, it gave way, and I found myself
in this so long desired room.

"It proved to be a very large library. This was indeed a precious
discovery. I looked round on the books with the greatest delight: I
thought I would read them every one. I now forsook all my favourite
haunts and passed all my time here. I took down first one book, then
another. If you never spent whole mornings alone in a large library,
you cannot conceive the pleasure of taking down books in the constant
hope of finding an entertaining book among them; yet, after many days,
meeting with nothing but disappointment, it became less pleasant. All
the books within my reach were folios of the gravest cast. I could
understand very little that I read in them, and the old dark print and
the length of the lines made my eyes ache.

"When I had almost resolved to give up the search as fruitless, I
perceived a volume lying in an obscure corner of the room. I opened
it; it was a charming print, the letters were almost as large as the
type of the family Bible. In the first page I looked into I saw the
name of my favourite Ishmael, whose face I knew so well from the
tapestry, and whose history I had often read in the Bible. I sat
myself down to read this book with the greatest eagerness. The title
of it was _Mahometanism Explained_.... A great many of the leaves were
torn out, but enough remained to make me imagine that Ishmael was the
true son of Abraham. I read here that the true descendants of Abraham
were known by a light which streamed from the middle of their
foreheads. It said that Ishmael's father and mother first saw this
light streaming from his forehead as he was lying asleep in the
cradle. I was very sorry so many of the leaves were torn out, for it
was as entertaining as a fairy tale. I used to read the history of
Ishmael and then go and look at him in the tapestry, and then read his
history again. When I had almost learned the history of Ishmael by
heart, I read the rest of the book, and then I came to the history of
Mahomet who was there said to be the last descendant of Abraham.

"If Ishmael had engaged so much of my thoughts, how much more so must
Mahomet? His history was full of nothing but wonders from the
beginning to the end. The book said that those who believed all the
wonderful stories which were related of Mahomet were called Mahometans
and True Believers; I concluded that I must be a Mahometan, for I
believed every word I read.

"At length I met with something which I also believed, though I
trembled as I read it. This was, that after we are dead we are to pass
over a narrow bridge which crosses a bottomless gulf. The bridge was
described to be no wider than a silken thread, and it is said that all
who were not Mahometans would slip on one side of this bridge and drop
into the tremendous gulf that had no bottom. I considered myself as a
Mahometan, yet I was perfectly giddy whenever I thought of passing
over this bridge. One day, seeing the old lady totter across the room,
a sudden terror seized me for I thought how would she ever be able to
get over the bridge? Then, too, it was that I first recollected that
my mother would also be in imminent danger; for I imagined she had
never heard the name of Mahomet, because I foolishly conjectured this
book had been locked up for ages in the library and was utterly
unknown to the rest of the world.

"All my desire was now to tell them the discovery I had made; for, I
thought, when they knew of the existence of _Mahometanism Explained_
they would read it and become Mahometans to ensure themselves a safe
passage over the silken bridge. But it wanted more courage than I
possessed to break the matter to my intended converts; I must
acknowledge that I had been reading without leave; and the habit
of never speaking or being spoken to considerably increased the
difficulty.

"My anxiety on this subject threw me into a fever. I was so ill that
my mother thought it necessary to sleep in the same room with me. In
the middle of the night I could not resist the strong desire I felt to
tell her what preyed so much on my mind.

"I awoke her out of a sound sleep and begged she would be so kind as
to be a Mahometan. She was very much alarmed, for she thought I was
delirious, which I believe I was; for I tried to explain the reason of
my request, but it was in such an incoherent manner that she could not
at all comprehend what I was talking about. The next day a physician
was sent for and he discovered, by several questions that he put to
me, that I had read myself into a fever. He gave me medicines and
ordered me to be kept very quiet and said he hoped in a few days I
should be very well; but as it was a new case to him, he never having
attended a little Mahometan before, if any lowness continued after he
had removed the fever he would, with my mother's permission, take me
home with him to study this extraordinary case at his leisure; and
added that he could then hold a consultation with his wife who was
often very useful to him in prescribing remedies for the maladies of
his younger patients."

In the sequel, this sensible and kindly doctor takes his little
patient home, and restores her by giving her child-like wholesome
pleasures and rational sympathy. I fear that this only shadowed forth
the wise tenderness with which Mary Lamb would have treated such a
child rather than what befell herself; and that with the cruelty of
ignorance Mary's mother and grandmother suffered her young spirit to
do battle still, in silence and inward solitariness, with the phantoms
imagination conjured up in her too-sensitive brain. "Polly, what are
those poor crazy, moythered brains of yours thinking always?" was
worthy Mrs. Field's way of endeavouring to win the confidence of the
thoughtful suffering child. The words in the story, "my mother almost
wholly discontinued talking to me," "I scarcely ever heard a word
addressed to me from morning to night" have a ring of truth, of
bitter experience in them, which makes the heart ache. Yet it was no
result of sullenness on either side, least of all did it breed any
ill-feeling on Mary's. It was simple stupidity, lack of insight or
sympathy in the elders; and on hers was repaid by the sweetest
affection and, in after years, by a self-sacrificing devotion which,
carried at last far beyond her strength, led to the great calamity of
her life. Grandmother Field was a fine old character, however, as the
reader of _Elia_ well knows. She had

    A mounting spirit, one that entertained
    Scorn of base action, deed dishonourable
    Or aught unseemly.

Like her daughter, Mrs. Lamb, she had been a handsome stately woman in
her prime and when bent with age and pain, for she suffered from a
cruel malady, cheerful patience and fortitude gave her dignity of
another and a higher kind. But, like her daughter, she seems to have
been wanting in those finer elements of tenderness and sympathy which
were of vital consequence in the rearing up of a child smitten like
Mary with a hereditary tendency to madness.



CHAPTER II.

Birth of Charles.--Coleridge.--Domestic Toils and Trials.--Their
Tragic Culmination.--Letters to and from Coleridge.

1775-1796.--Æt. 11-32.


On the 10th of February 1775 arrived a new member into the household
group in Crown Office Row--Charles, the child of his father's old age,
the "weakly but very pretty babe," who was to prove their strong
support. And now Mary was no longer a lonely girl. She was just old
enough to be trusted to nurse and tend the baby and she became a
mother to it. In after life she spoke of the comfort, the wholesome
curative influence upon her young troubled mind, which this devotion
to Charles in his infancy brought with it. And as he grew older rich
was her reward; for he repaid the debt with a love half filial, half
fraternal, than which no human tie was ever stronger or more sublimely
adequate to the strain of a terrible emergency. As his young mind
unfolded he found in her intelligence and love the same genial
fostering influences that had cherished his feeble frame into health
and strength. It was with his little hand in hers that he first trod
the Temple gardens, and spelled out the inscriptions on the sun-dials
and on the tombstones in the old burying-ground and wondered, finding
only lists of the virtues "where all the naughty people were buried?"
Like Mary, his disposition was so different from that of his gay,
pleasure-loving parents that they but ill understood "and gave
themselves little trouble about him," which also tended to draw
brother and sister closer together. There are no other records of
Mary's girlhood than such as may be gathered from the story of her
brother's early life; of how when he was five and she was fifteen she
came near to losing him from small-pox, Aunt Hetty grieving over him
"the only thing in the world she loved" as she was wont to say, with a
mother's tears. And how, three years later (in 1782), she had to give
up his daily companionship and see him, now grown a handsome boy with
"crisply curling black hair, clear brown complexion, aquiline,
slightly Jewish cast of features, winning smile, and glittering,
restless eyes," equipped as a Christ's Hospital boy and, with Aunt
Hetty, to

       ... peruse him round and round,
    And hardly know him in his yellow coats,
    Red leathern belt and gown of russet blue.

Coleridge was already a Blue Coat boy but older and too high above
Charles in the school for comradeship then. To Lamb, with home close
at hand, it was a happy time; but Coleridge, homeless and friendless
in the great city, had no mitigations of the rough Spartan discipline
which prevailed; and the weekly whole holidays when, turned adrift in
the streets from morn till night, he had nothing but a crust of bread
in his pockets and no resource but to beguile the pangs of hunger in
summer with hours of bathing in the New River and in winter with
furtive hanging round book-stalls wrought permanent harm to his
fine-strung organisation. Nor did the gentleness of his disposition,
or the brilliancy of his powers, save him from the birch-loving
brutalities of old Boyer, who was wont to add an extra stripe "because
he was so ugly."

In the Lamb household the domestic outlook grew dark as soon as Mary
was grown up, for her father's faculties and her mother's health
failed early; and when, in his fifteenth year, Charles left Christ's
Hospital it was already needful for him to take up the burthens of a
man on his young shoulders; and for Mary not only to make head against
sickness, helplessness, old age with its attendant exigencies but to
add to the now straitened means by taking in millinery work.

For eleven years, as she has told us, she maintained herself by the
needle; from the age of twenty-one to thirty-two, that is. It was not
in poor old Aunt Hetty's nature to be helpful either. "She was from
morning till night poring over good books and devotional exercises....
The only secular employment I remember to have seen her engaged in was
the splitting of French beans and dropping them into a basin of fair
water," says Elia. Happily, a clerkship in the South Sea House, where
his brother already was, enabled Charles to maintain his parents and a
better post in the India House was obtained two years afterwards. Nor
were there wanting snatches of pleasant holiday sometimes shared by
Mary. Of one, a visit to the sea, there is a beautiful reminiscence in
_The Old Margate Hoy_, written more than thirty years afterwards. "It
was our first sea-side experiment," he says, "and many circumstances
combined to make it the most agreeable holiday of my life. We had
neither of us seen the sea" (he was fifteen and Mary twenty-six), "and
we had never been from home so long together in company." The
disappointment they both felt at the first sight of the sea he explains
with one of his subtle and profound suggestions. "Is it not" ... says
he, "that we had expected to behold (absurdly I grant, but by the law
of imagination inevitably) not a definite object compassable by the
eye, but _all the sea at once, the commensurate antagonist of the
earth_? Whereas the eye can but take in a 'slip of salt water.'" The
whole passage is one of Elia's finest.

Then Coleridge too, who had remained two years longer at Christ's
Hospital than Lamb and after he went up to Cambridge in 1791 continued
to pay frequent visits to London, spent many a glorious evening, not
only those memorable ones with Charles in the parlour of the
"Salutation and Cat," but in his home; and was not slow to discover
Mary's fine qualities and to take her into his brotherly heart as a
little poem, written so early as 1794, to cheer his friend during a
serious illness of hers testifies:--

              Cheerily, dear Charles!
    Thou thy best friend shalt cherish many a year
    Such warm presages feel I of high hope.
    For not uninterested the dear maid
    I've viewed--her soul affectionate yet wise,
    Her polished wit as mild as lambent glories
    That play around a sainted infant's head.

The year 1795 witnessed changes for all. The father, now wholly in his
dotage, was pensioned off by Mr. Salt and the family had to exchange
their old home in the Temple for straitened lodgings in Little Queen
Street, Holborn (the site of which and of the adjoining houses is now
occupied by Trinity Church). Coleridge, too, had left Cambridge and
was at Bristol, drawn thither by his newly formed friendship with
Southey, lecturing, writing, dreaming of his ideal Pantisocracy on the
banks of the Susquehannah and love-making. The love-making ended in
marriage the autumn of that same year. Meanwhile Lamb, too, was first
tasting the joys and sorrows of love. Alice W---- lingers but as a
shadow in the records of his life: the passion, however, was real
enough and took deep hold of him, conspiring with the cares and trials
of home life unrelieved now by the solace of Coleridge's society to
give a fatal stimulus to the germs of brain-disease, which were part
of the family heritage and for six weeks he was in a mad-house. "In
your absence," he tells his friend afterwards, "the tide of melancholy
rushed in, and did its worst mischief by overwhelming my reason." Who
can doubt the memory of this attack strengthened the bond of sympathy
between Mary and himself and gave him a fellow-feeling for her no
amount of affection alone could have realised? As in her case, too,
the disorder took the form of a great heightening and intensifying of
the imaginative faculty. "I look back on it, at times," wrote he after
his recovery, "with a gloomy kind of envy; for while it lasted I had
many many hours of pure happiness. Dream not, Coleridge, of having
tasted all the grandeur and wildness of fancy, till you have gone
mad.... The sonnet I send you has small merit as poetry, but you will
be curious to read it when I tell you it was written in my
prison-house in one of my lucid intervals:--

    TO MY SISTER.

    If from my lips some angry accents fell,
    Peevish complaint, or harsh reproof unkind,
    'Twas but the error of a sickly mind
    And troubled thoughts, clouding the purer well,
    And waters clear of Reason; and for me
    Let this my verse the poor atonement be--
    My verse, which thou to praise wert e'er inclined
    Too highly, and with a partial eye to see
    No blemish. Thou to me didst ever show
    Kindest affection; and would oft-times lend
    An ear to the desponding love-sick lay,
    Weeping my sorrows with me, who repay
    But ill the mighty debt of love I owe,
    Mary, to thee, my sister and my friend.

No sooner was Charles restored to himself than the elder brother John
met with a serious accident; and though whilst in health he had
carried himself and his earnings to more comfortable quarters, he did
not now fail to return and be nursed with anxious solicitude by his
brother and sister. This was the last ounce. Mary, worn out with years
of nightly as well as daily attendance upon her mother who was now
wholly deprived of the use of her limbs, and harassed by a close
application to needle-work to help her in which she had been obliged to
take a young apprentice, was at last strained beyond the utmost pitch
of physical endurance, "worn down to a state of extreme nervous
misery." About the middle of September, she being then thirty-two
years old, her family observed some symptoms of insanity in her which
had so much increased by the 21st that her brother early in the
morning went to Dr. Pitcairn who unhappily was out. On the afternoon
of that day, seized with a sudden attack of frenzy, she snatched a
knife from the table and pursued the young apprentice round the room
when her mother interposing received a fatal stab and died instantly.
Mary was totally unconscious of what she had done, Aunt Hetty fainted
with terror, the father was too feeble in mind for any but a confused
and transient impression; it was Charles alone who confronted all the
anguish and horror of the scene. With the stern brevity of deep
emotion he wrote to Coleridge five days afterwards:--

"My poor dear, dearest sister, in a fit of insanity, has been the
death of her own mother. I was at hand only time enough to snatch the
knife out of her grasp. She is at present in a mad-house, from whence
I fear she must be moved to a hospital. God has preserved to me my
senses; I eat, and drink, and sleep, and have my judgment, I believe,
very sound. My poor father was slightly wounded, and I am left to take
care of him and my aunt. Mr. Norris of the Blue Coat School has been
very kind to us, and we have no other friend; but, thank God, I am
very calm and composed, and able to do the best that remains to do.
Write as religious a letter as possible, but no mention of what is
gone and done with. With me 'the former things are passed away,' and I
have something more to do than to feel. God Almighty have us all in
His keeping! Mention nothing of poetry. I have destroyed every vestige
of past vanities of that kind.... Your own judgment will convince you
not to take any notice of this yet to your dear wife. You look after
your family; I have my reason and strength left to take care of mine.
I charge you, don't think of coming to see me. Write. I will not see
you if you come. God Almighty love you and all of us!"

Coleridge responded to this appeal for sympathy and comfort by the
following,--the only letter of his to Lamb which has been preserved:--

"Your letter, my friend, struck me with a mighty horror. It rushed upon
me and stupified my feelings. You bid me write you a religious letter;
I am not a man who would attempt to insult the greatness of your
anguish by any other consolation. Heaven knows that in the easiest
fortunes there is much dissatisfaction and weariness of spirit; much
that calls for the exercise of patience and resignation; but in storms
like these that shake the dwelling and make the heart tremble, there is
no middle way between despair and the yielding up of the whole spirit
to the guidance of faith. And surely it is a matter of joy that your
faith in Jesus has been preserved; the Comforter that should relieve
you is not far from you. But as you are a Christian, in the name of
that Saviour who was filled with bitterness and made drunken with
wormwood, I conjure you to have recourse in frequent prayer to 'his God
and your God,' the God of mercies and Father of all comfort. Your poor
father is, I hope, almost senseless of the calamity; the unconscious
instrument of Divine Providence knows it not, and your mother is in
Heaven. It is sweet to be roused from a frightful dream by the song of
birds, and the gladsome rays of the morning. Ah, how infinitely more
sweet to be awakened from the blackness and amazement of a sudden
horror by the glories of God manifest, and the hallelujahs of angels.

"As to what regards yourself, I approve altogether of your abandoning
what you justly call vanities. I look upon you as a man called by
sorrow and anguish and a strange desolation of hopes into quietness,
and a soul set apart and made peculiar to God; we cannot arrive at any
portion of heavenly bliss without, in some measure, imitating Christ.
And they arrive at the largest inheritance who imitate the most
difficult parts of his character, and, bowed down and crushed under
foot, cry, in fulness of faith, 'Father, Thy will be done.'

"I wish above measure to have you for a little while here; no
visitants shall blow on the nakedness of your feelings; you shall be
quiet, that your spirit may be healed. I see no possible objection,
unless your father's helplessness prevent you, and unless you are
necessary to him. If this be not the case, I charge you write me that
you will come.

"I charge you, my dearest friend, not to dare to encourage gloom or
despair; you are a temporary sharer in human miseries, that you may be
an eternal partaker of the Divine nature. I charge you, if by any
means it be possible, come to me."

How the storm was weathered, with what mingled fortitude and sweetness
Lamb sustained the wrecked household and rescued his sister, when
reason returned, from the living death of perpetual confinement in a
mad-house must be read in the answer to Coleridge:--

"Your letter was an inestimable treasure to me. It will be a comfort
to you, I know, to know that our prospects are somewhat brighter. My
poor dear, dearest sister, the unhappy and unconscious instrument of
the Almighty's judgment on our house, is restored to her senses; to a
dreadful sense and recollection of what has passed, awful to her mind,
and impressive (as it must be to the end of life), but tempered with
religious resignation and the reasonings of a sound judgment, which in
this early stage knows how to distinguish between a deed committed in
a transient fit of frenzy and the terrible guilt of a mother's murder.
I have seen her. I found her this morning, calm and serene; far, very
far from an indecent forgetful serenity. She has a most affectionate
and tender concern for what has happened. Indeed, from the
beginning--frightful and hopeless as her disorder seemed--I had
confidence enough in her strength of mind and religious principle, to
look forward to a time when even she might recover tranquillity. God
be praised, Coleridge! wonderful as it is to tell, I have never once
been otherwise than collected and calm; even on the dreadful day, and
in the midst of the terrible scene, I preserved a tranquillity which
bystanders may have construed into indifference; a tranquillity not of
despair. Is it folly or sin in me to say that it was a religious
principle that most supported me? I allow much to other favourable
circumstances. I felt that I had something else to do than to regret.
On that first evening my aunt was lying insensible--to all appearance
like one dying; my father, with his poor forehead plaistered over from
a wound he had received from a daughter, dearly loved by him and who
loved him no less dearly; my mother a dead and murdered corpse in the
next room; yet was I wonderfully supported. I closed not my eyes in
sleep that night, but lay without terrors and without despair. I have
lost no sleep since. I had been long used not to rest in things of
sense; had endeavoured after a comprehension of mind unsatisfied with
the 'ignorant present time,' and this kept me up. I had the whole
weight of the family thrown on me; for my brother, little disposed (I
speak not without tenderness for him) at any time to take care of old
age and infirmities, had now, with his bad leg, an exemption from such
duties, and I was left alone. One little incident may serve to make
you understand my way of managing my mind. Within a day or two after
the fatal one, we dressed for dinner a tongue, which we had had salted
for some weeks in the house. As I sat down a feeling like remorse
struck me: this tongue poor Mary got for me, and can I partake of it
now when she is far away? A thought occurred and relieved me: if I
give in to this way of feeling, there is not a chair, a room, an
object in our rooms that will not awaken the keenest griefs. I must
rise above such weaknesses. I hope this was not want of true feeling.
I did not let this carry me, though, too far. On the very second day
(I date from the day of horrors) as is usual in such cases there were
a matter of twenty people, I do think, supping in our room; they
prevailed on me to eat _with them_ (for to eat I never refused). They
were all making merry in the room! Some had come from friendship, some
from busy curiosity and some from interest. I was going to partake
with them when my recollection came that my poor dead mother was lying
in the next room--the very next room; a mother who, through life,
wished nothing but her children's welfare. Indignation, the rage of
grief, something like remorse, rushed upon my mind. In an agony of
emotion I found my way mechanically to the adjoining room and fell on
my knees by the side of her coffin, asking forgiveness of Heaven and
sometimes of her for forgetting her so soon. Tranquillity returned and
it was the only violent emotion that mastered me. I think it did me
good.

"I mention these things because I hate concealment and love to give a
faithful journal of what passes within me. Our friends have been very
good. Sam Le Grice [an old schoolfellow well known to the readers of
Lamb], who was then in town, was with me the first three or four 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, talked with him, read to him, played at
cribbage with him (for so short is the old man's recollection that he
was playing at cards as though nothing had happened while the
coroner's inquest was sitting over the way!). Samuel wept tenderly
when he went away, for his mother wrote him a very severe letter on
his loitering so long in town and he was forced to go. Mr. Norris of
Christ's Hospital has been as a father to me; Mrs. Norris as a mother;
though we had few claims on them. A gentleman, brother to my
godmother, from whom we never had right or reason to expect any such
assistance, sent my father twenty pounds; and to crown all these God's
blessings to our family at such a time, an old lady, a cousin of my
father and aunt, a gentlewoman of fortune, is to take my aunt and make
her comfortable for the short remainder of her days. My aunt is
recovered and as well as ever and highly pleased at the thought of
going, and has generously given up the interest of her little money
(which was formerly paid my father for her board) wholly and solely to
my sister's use. Reckoning this we have, Daddy and I, for our two
selves and an old maid-servant to look after him when I am out which
will be necessary, £170 (or £180 rather) a year, out of which we can
spare £50 or £60, at least, for Mary while she stays at Islington
where she must and shall stay during her father's life, for his and
her comfort. I know John will make speeches about it, but she shall
not go into an hospital. The good lady of the mad-house and her
daughter, an elegant, sweet-behaved young lady, love her and are taken
with her amazingly; and I know, from her own mouth, she loves them and
longs to be with them as much. Poor thing, they say she was but the
other morning saying she knew she must go to Bethlem for life; that
one of her brothers would have it so, but the other would wish it not,
but be obliged to go with the stream; that she had often, as she
passed Bethlem, thought it likely 'Here it may be my fate to end my
days,' conscious of a certain flightiness in her poor head often-times
and mindful of more than one severe illness of that nature before. A
legacy of £100 which my father will have at Christmas and this £20 I
mentioned before with what is in the house will much more than set us
clear. If my father, an old servant-maid and I can't live and live
comfortably on £130 or £120 a year, we ought to burn by slow fires,
and I almost would that Mary might not go into an hospital. Let me not
leave one unfavourable impression on your mind respecting my brother.
Since this has happened he has been very kind and brotherly; but I
fear for his mind: he has taken his ease in the world and is not fit
to struggle with difficulties, nor has he much accustomed himself to
throw himself into their way and I know his language is already,
'Charles you must take care of yourself, you must not abridge yourself
of a single pleasure you have been used to,' &c. &c, and in that style
of talking. But you, a necessarian, can respect a difference of mind
and love what is amiable in a character not perfect. He has been very
good but I fear for his mind. Thank God I can unconnect myself with
him and shall manage all my father's moneys in future myself if I take
charge of Daddy, which poor John has not even hinted a wish at any
future time even to share with me. The lady at this mad-house assures
me that I may dismiss immediately both doctor and apothecary,
retaining occasionally a composing draught or so for a while; and
there is a less expensive establishment in her house, where she will
only not have a room and nurse to herself for £50 or guineas a
year--the outside would be £60. You know by economy how much more even
I shall be able to spare for her comforts. She will, I fancy, if she
stays, make one of the family rather than of the patients; and the old
and young ladies I like exceedingly and she loves them dearly; and
they, as the saying is, take to her very extraordinarily if it is
extraordinary that people who see my sister should love her. Of all
the people I ever saw in the world, my poor sister was most and
thoroughly devoid of the least tincture of selfishness. I will enlarge
upon her qualities, poor dear, dearest soul, in a future letter for my
own comfort, for I understand her thoroughly; and, if I mistake not,
in the most trying situation that a human being can be found in, she
will be found (I speak not with sufficient humility, I fear), but
humanly and foolishly speaking, she will be found, I trust, uniformly
great and amiable...."

The depth and tenderness of Mary's but half requited love for her
mother and the long years of daily and nightly devotion to her which
had borne witness to it and been the immediate cause of the
catastrophe, took the sting out of her grief and gave her an
unfaltering sense of innocence. They even shed round her a peaceful
atmosphere which veiled from her mind's eye the dread scene in all its
naked horror, as it would seem from Lamb's next letter:--

"Mary continues serene and cheerful. I have not by me a little letter
she wrote to me; for though I see her almost every day yet we delight
to write to one another, for we can scarce see each other but in
company with some of the people of the house. I have not the letter by
me but will quote from memory what she wrote in it: 'I have no bad,
terrifying dreams. At midnight, when I happen to awake, the nurse
sleeping by the side of me, with the noise of the poor mad people
around me, I have no fear. The spirit of my mother seems to descend
and smile upon me and bid me live to enjoy the life and reason which
the Almighty has given me. I shall see her again in heaven; she will
then understand me better. My grandmother, too, will understand me
better, and will then say no more as she used to do, 'Polly, what are
those poor, crazy, moythered brains of yours thinking of always?'"

And again, in another of her little letters, not itself preserved, but
which Charles translated "almost literally," he tells us, into verse,
she said:--

              Thou and I, dear friend,
    With filial recognition sweet, shall know
    One day the face of our dear mother in heaven;
    And her remembered looks of love shall greet
    With answering looks of love, her placid smiles
    Meet with a smile as placid, and her hand
    With drops of fondness wet, nor fear repulse.

And after speaking, in words already quoted, of how his mother "had
never understood Mary right," Lamb continues:--

"Every act of duty and of love she could pay, every kindness (and I
speak true when I say to the hurting of her health, and most probably
in great part to the derangement of her senses), through a long course
of infirmities and sickness, she could show her she ever did." "I
will, some day as I promised, enlarge to you upon my sister's
excellences; 'twill seem like exaggeration, but I will do it."

Although Mary's recovery had been rapid, to be permitted to return
home was, for the present, out of the question; so cheered by constant
intercourse with Charles she set herself, with characteristic
sweetness, to make the best of life in a private lunatic asylum. "I
have satisfaction," Charles tells his unfailing sympathiser Coleridge,
"in being able to bid you rejoice with me in my sister's continued
reason and composedness of mind. Let us both be thankful for it. I
continue to visit her very frequently and the people of the house are
vastly indulgent to her. She is likely to be as comfortably situated
in all respects as those who pay twice or thrice the sum. They love
her and she loves them and makes herself very useful to them.
Benevolence sets out on her journey with a good heart and puts a good
face on it, but is apt to limp and grow feeble unless she calls in the
aid of self-interest by way of crutch. In Mary's case, as far as
respects those she is with, 'tis well that these principles are so
likely to co-operate. I am rather at a loss sometimes for books for
her, our reading is somewhat confined and we have nearly exhausted our
London library. She has her hands too full of work to read much, but a
little she must read for reading was her daily bread."

So wore away the remaining months of this dark year. Perhaps they were
loneliest and saddest for Charles. There was no one now to share with
him the care of his old father; and second childhood draws unsparingly
on the debt of filial affection and gratitude. Cheerfully and
ungrudgingly did he pay it. His chief solace was the correspondence
with Coleridge; and, as his spirits recovered their tone, the mutual
discussion of the poems which the two friends were about to publish
conjointly with some of Charles Lloyd's, was resumed. The little
volume was to be issued by Cottle of Bristol, early in the coming
year, 1797; and Lamb was desirous to seize the occasion of giving his
sister an unlooked-for pleasure and of consecrating his verses by a
renouncement and a dedication.

"I have a dedication in my head," he writes, "for my few things, which
I want to know if you approve of and can insert. I mean to inscribe
them to my sister. It will be unexpected, and it will give her
pleasure; or do you think it will look whimsical at all? As I have not
spoken to her about it, I can easily reject the idea. But there is a
monotony in the affections which people living together, or, as we do
now, very frequently seeing each other, are apt to get into; a sort of
indifference in the expression of kindness for each other, which
demands that we should sometimes call to our aid the trickery of
surprise. The title page to stand thus:--

                  POEMS

                   BY

      CHARLES LAMB, OF THE INDIA HOUSE.

Motto:--

    This beauty, in the blossom of my youth,
    When my first fire knew no adulterate incense,
    Nor I no way to flatter but my fondness,
    In the best language my true tongue could tell me,
    And all the broken sighs my sick heart lend me,
    I sued and served. Long did I love this lady.--MASSINGER.

The Dedication:--

       THE FEW FOLLOWING POEMS,
CREATURES OF THE FANCY AND THE FEELING,
      IN LIFE'S MORE VACANT HOURS,
     PRODUCED, FOR THE MOST PART, BY
            LOVE IN IDLENESS,
                   ARE,
       WITH ALL A BROTHER'S FONDNESS,
                INSCRIBED TO
               MARY ANNE LAMB,
  THE AUTHOR'S BEST FRIEND AND SISTER.

"This is the pomp and paraphernalia of parting, with which I take my
leave of a passion which has reigned so royally, so long, within me.
Thus, with its trappings of laureateship, I fling it off, pleased and
satisfied with myself that the weakness troubles me no longer. I am
wedded, Coleridge, to the fortunes of my sister and my poor old father.
Oh, my friend! I think, sometimes, could I recall the days that are
past, which among them should I choose? Not those merrier days, not the
pleasant days of hope, not those wanderings with a fair-haired maid
which I have so often and so feelingly regretted, but the days,
Coleridge, of a _mother's_ fondness for her _school-boy_. What would I
give to call her back to earth for _one_ day!--on my knees to ask her
pardon for all those little asperities of temper which, from time to
time, have given her gentle spirit pain!--and the day, my friend, I
trust will come. There will be 'time enough' for kind offices of love,
if Heaven's 'eternal year' be ours. Hereafter, her meek spirit shall
not reproach me. Oh! my friend, cultivate the filial feelings! and let
no man think himself released from the kind 'charities' of
relationship: these shall give him peace at the last; these are the
best foundation for every species of benevolence. I rejoice to hear by
certain channels, that you, my friend, are reconciled with all your
relations. 'Tis the most kindly and natural species of love, and we
have all the associated train of early feelings to secure its strength
and perpetuity."



CHAPTER III.

Death of Aunt Hetty.--Mary removed from the Asylum.--Charles
Lloyd.--A Visit to Nether Stowey, and Introduction to Wordsworth
and his Sister.--Anniversary of the Mother's Death.--Mary ill
again.--Estrangement between Lamb and Coleridge.--Speedy
Reconcilement.

1797-1801.--Æt. 33-37.


Aunt Hetty did not find her expectations of a comfortable home
realised under the roof of the wealthy gentlewoman, who proved herself
a typical rich relation and wrote to Charles at the beginning of the
new year that she found her aged cousin indolent and mulish, "and that
her attachment to us" (he is telling Coleridge the tale, to whom he
could unburthen his heart on all subjects, sure of sympathy) "is so
strong that she can never be happy apart. The lady with delicate irony
remarks that if I am not an hypocrite I shall rejoice to receive her
again; and that it will be a means of making me more fond of home to
have so dear a friend to come home to! The fact is, she is jealous of
my aunt's bestowing any kind recollections on us while she enjoys the
patronage of her roof. She says she finds it inconsistent with her own
'ease and tranquillity' to keep her any longer; and, in fine, summons
me to fetch her home. Now, much as I should rejoice to transplant the
poor old creature from the chilling air of such patronage, yet I know
how straitened we are already, how unable already to answer any demand
which sickness or any extraordinary expense may make. I know this; and
all unused as I am to struggle with perplexities, I am somewhat
nonplussed, to say no worse."

Hetty Lamb found a refuge and a welcome in the old humble home again.
But she returned only to die; and Mary was not there to nurse her. She
was still in the asylum at Islington; and was indeed herself at this
time recovering from an attack of scarlet fever, or something akin to
it.

Early in January 1797 Lamb wrote to Coleridge:--"You and Sara are very
good to think so kindly and so favourably of poor Mary. I would to God
all did so too. But I very much fear she must not think of coming home
in my father's lifetime. It is very hard upon her, but our
circumstances are peculiar and we must submit to them. God be praised
she is so well as she is. She bears her situation as one who has no
right to complain. My poor old aunt, whom you have seen, the kindest
goodest creature to me when I was at school, who used to toddle there
to bring me good things when I, school-boy like, only despised her for
it, and used to be ashamed to see her come and sit herself down on the
old coal-hole steps as you went into the old Grammar School and open
her apron and bring out her basin with some nice thing she had caused
to be saved for me,--the good old creature is now lying on her
death-bed. I cannot bear to think on her deplorable state. To the
shock she received on that our evil day from which she never
completely recovered, I impute her illness. She says, poor thing, she
is glad she is come home to die with me, I was always her favourite."

She lingered a month, and then went to occupy

          "... the same grave bed
    Where the dead mother lies.
    Oh, my dear mother! oh, thou dear dead saint!
    Where's now that placid face, where oft hath sat
    A mother's smile to think her son should thrive
    In this bad world when she was dead and gone;
    And where a tear hath sat (take shame, O son!)
    When that same child has proved himself unkind.
    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."

"I own I am thankful that the good creature has ended her days of
suffering and infirmity," says Lamb to Coleridge. "Good God! who could
have foreseen all this but four months back! I had reckoned, in
particular, on my aunt's living many years; she was a very hearty old
woman.... But she was a mere skeleton before she died; looked more
like a corpse that had lain weeks in the grave than one fresh dead."

"I thank you; from my heart, I thank you," Charles again wrote to
Coleridge, "for your solicitude about my sister. She is quite well,
but must not, I fear, come to live with us yet a good while. In the
first place, because it would hurt her and hurt my father for them to
be together; secondly, from a regard to the world's good report; for I
fear tongues will be busy whenever that event takes place. Some have
hinted, one man has pressed it on me, that she should be in perpetual
confinement. What she hath done to deserve, or the necessity of such
an hardship I see not; do you?"

At length Lamb determined to grapple, on Mary's behalf, with the
difficulties and embarrassments of the situation. "Painful doubts were
suggested," says Talfourd, "by the authorities of the parish where the
terrible occurrence happened, whether they were not bound to institute
proceedings which must have placed her for life at the disposition of
the Crown, especially as no medical assurance could be given against
the probable recurrence of dangerous frenzy. But Charles came to her
deliverance; he satisfied all the parties who had power to oppose her
release, by his solemn engagement that he would take her under his
care for life; and he kept his word. Whether any communication with
the Home Secretary occurred before her release I have been unable to
ascertain. It was the impression of Mr. Lloyd, from whom my own
knowledge of the circumstances, which the letters do not contain was
derived, that a communication took place, on which a similar pledge
was given. At all events the result was that she left the asylum and
took up her abode," not with her brother yet, but in lodgings near him
and her father.

He writes to Coleridge, April 7th, 1797: "Lloyd may have told you
about my sister.... If not, I have taken her out of her confinement,
and taken a room for her at Hackney, and spend my Sundays, holidays,
&c., with her. She boards herself. In a little half year's illness and
in such an illness, of such a nature and of such consequences, to get
her out into the world again, with a prospect of her never being so
ill again, this is to be ranked not among the common blessings of
Providence. May that merciful God make tender my heart and make me as
thankful as, in my distress, I was earnest in my prayers. Congratulate
me on an ever-present and never alienable friend like her, and do, do
insert, if you have not _lost_, my dedication [to Mary]. It will have
lost half its value by coming so late." And of another sonnet to her,
which he desires to have inserted, he says: "I wish to accumulate
perpetuating tokens of my affection to poor Mary."

Two events which brightened this sad year must not be passed over
though Mary, the sharer of all her brother's joys and sorrows, had but
an indirect participation in them. Just when he was most lonely and
desolate at the close of the fatal year he had written to Coleridge:
"I can only converse with you by letter, and with the dead in their
books. My sister, indeed, is all I can wish in a companion; but our
spirits are alike poorly, our reading and knowledge from the self-same
sources, our communication with the scenes of the world alike narrow.
Never having kept separate company or any 'company' _together_--never
having read separate books and few books _together_, what knowledge
have we to convey to each other? In our little range of duties and
connections how few sentiments can take place without friends, with
few books, with a taste for religion rather than a strong religious
habit! We need some support, some leading-strings to cheer and direct
us. You talk very wisely and be not sparing of _your advice_; continue
to remember us and to show us you do remember; we will take as lively
an interest in what concerns you and yours. All I can add to your
happiness will be sympathy; you can add to mine _more_, you can teach
me wisdom."

Quite suddenly, at the beginning of the new year, there came to break
this solitude Charles Lloyd, whose poems were to company Lamb's own
and Coleridge's in the forthcoming volume: a young man of quaker
family who was living in close fellowship with that group of poets
down in Somersetshire towards whom Lamb's eyes and heart were
wistfully turned as afterwards were to be those of all lovers of
literature. How deeply he was moved by this spontaneous seeking for
his friendship on Lloyd's part, let a few lines from one of those
early poems which, in their earnest simplicity and sincerity, are
precious autobiographic fragments tell:--

    Alone, obscure, without a friend,
    A cheerless, solitary thing,
    Why seeks my Lloyd the stranger out?
    What offering can the stranger bring
    Of social scenes, home-bred delights,
    That him in aught compensate may
    For Stowey's pleasant winter nights,
    For loves and friendships far away?

       *       *       *       *       *

    For this a gleam of random joy,
    Hath flush'd my unaccustom'd cheek,
    And with an o'ercharged bursting heart
    I feel the thanks I cannot speak.
    O sweet are all the Muses' lays,
    And sweet the charm of matin bird--
    'Twas long since these estranged ears
    The sweeter voice of friend had heard.

The next was a yet brighter gleam--a fortnight with Coleridge at
Nether Stowey and an introduction to Wordsworth and his sister
Dorothy, forerunner of a life-long friendship in which Mary was soon to
share. The visit took place in the July of this same year 1797. The
prospect of it had dangled tantalizingly before Charles' eyes for a
year or more; and now at last his chiefs at the India House were
propitious and he wrote: "May I, can I, shall I come so soon?... I
long, I yearn, with all the longings of a child do I desire to see
you, to come among you, to see the young philosopher [Hartley, the
poet's first child] to thank Sara for her last year's invitation in
person, to read your tragedy, to read over together our little book,
to breathe fresh air, to revive in me vivid images of '_Salutation
scenery_.' There is a sort of sacrilege in my letting such ideas slip
out of my mind and memory.... Here I will leave off, for I dislike to
fill up this paper (which involves a question so connected with my
heart and soul) with meaner matter, or subjects to me less
interesting. I can talk as I can think, nothing else."

Seldom has fate been kind enough to bring together, in those years of
early manhood when friendships strike their deepest roots, just the
very men who could give the best help, the warmest encouragement to
each other's genius, whilst they were girding themselves for that
warfare with the ignorance and dulness of the public which every
original man has to wage for a longer or shorter time. Wordsworth was
twenty-seven, Coleridge twenty-five, Lamb twenty-two. For Wordsworth
was to come the longest, stiffest battle--fought, however, from the
vantage ground of pecuniary independence, thanks to his simple frugal
habits and to a few strokes of good fortune. His aspect in age is
familiar to the readers of this generation, but less so the Wordsworth
of the days when the _Lyrical Ballads_ were just taking final shape.
There was already a severe worn pressure of thought about the temples
of his high yet somewhat narrow forehead and 'his eyes were fires,
half smouldering, half burning, inspired, supernatural, with a fixed
acrid gaze' as if he saw something in objects more than the outward
appearance. 'His cheeks were furrowed by strong purpose and feeling,
and there was a convulsive inclination to laughter about the mouth, a
good deal at variance with the solemn, stately expression of the rest
of his face.' Dressed in a brown fustian jacket and striped
pantaloons, adds Hazlitt, who first saw him a few months later, he had
something of a roll and lounge in his gait not unlike his own Peter
Bell. He talked freely and naturally, with a mixture of clear gushing
accents in his voice, a deep guttural intonation and a strong tincture
of the northern burr, and when he recited one of his poems his voice
lingered on the ear "like the roll of spent thunder."

But who could dazzle and win like Coleridge? Who could travel so far
and wide through all the realms of thought and imagination, and pour
out the riches he brought back in such free, full, melodious speech
with that spontaneous "utterancy of heart and soul," which was his
unique gift, in a voice whose tones were so sweet, ear and soul were
alike ravished? For him the fight was not so much with the public
which, Orpheus that he was, he could so easily have led captive, as
with the flesh--weak health, a nerveless languor, a feeble will that
never could combine and concentrate his forces for any sustained or
methodical effort. Dorothy Wordsworth has described him as he looked
in these days: "At first I thought him very plain--that is, for about
three minutes--he is pale, thin, has a wide mouth, thick lips, and not
very good teeth, longish loose-growing, half-curling, rough black hair
(in both these respects a contrast to Wordsworth, who had, in his
youth, beautiful teeth and light brown hair); but if you hear him
speak for five minutes, you think no more of them. His eye is large
and full and not very dark, but grey, such an eye as would receive
from a heavy soul the dullest expression; but it speaks every emotion
of his animated mind; it has more of the 'poet's eye in a fine frenzy
rolling' than I ever witnessed. He has fine dark eye-brows and an
overhanging forehead." This was the very year that produced _The
Ancient Mariner_, the first part of _Christabel_, and _Kubla Khan_.

To Charles Lamb the change from his restricted over-shadowed life in
London--all day at a clerk's desk and in the evening a return to the
Pentonville lodging with no other inmate than his poor old father,
Sundays and holidays only spent with his sister--to such companionship
amid such scenes, almost dazed him, like stepping from a darkened room
into the brilliant sunshine. Before he went he had written:--"I see
nobody. I sit and read, or walk alone and hear nothing. I am quite
lost to conversation from disuse; and out of the sphere of my little
family (who, I am thankful, are dearer and dearer to me every day), I
see no face that brightens up at my approach. My friends are at a
distance. Worldly hopes are at a low ebb with me, and unworldly
thoughts are unfamiliar to me, though I occasionally indulge in them.
Still I feel a calm not unlike content. I fear it is sometimes more
akin to physical stupidity than to a heaven-flowing serenity and
peace. If I come to Stowey, what conversation can I furnish to
compensate my friend for those stores of knowledge and of fancy, those
delightful treasures of wisdom, which I know he will open to me? But
it is better to give than to receive; and I was a very patient hearer
and docile scholar in our winter evening meetings at Mr. May's, was I
not Coleridge? What I have owed to thee my heart can ne'er forget."

Perhaps his friends, even Coleridge who knew him so well, realised as
little as himself what was the true mental stature of the "gentle-hearted",
and "wild-eyed boy" as they called him; whose opportunities and
experience, save in the matter of strange calamity, had been so narrow
compared to their own. The keen edge of his discernment as a critic,
quick and piercing as those quick, piercing, restless eyes of his, they
knew and prized yet could hardly, perhaps, divine that there were
qualities in him which would freight his prose for a long voyage down
the stream of time. But already they knew that within that small spare
frame, "thin and wiry as an Arab of the desert," there beat a heroic
heart, fit to meet the stern and painful exigencies of his lot; and that
his love for his sister was of the same fibre as conscience--"a supreme
embracer of consequences."

Dorothy Wordsworth was just such a friend and comrade to the poet as
Mary was to Charles, sharing his passionate devotion to nature as Mary
shared her brother's loves, whether for men or books or for the stir
and throng of life in the great city. Alike were these two women in
being as De Quincey said of Dorothy "the truest, most inevitable and,
at the same time, the quickest and readiest in sympathy with either
joy or sorrow, with laughter or with tears, with the realities of
life, or the larger realities of the poets." But unlike in
temperament; Dorothy ardent, fiery, trembling with eager impetuosity
that embarrassed her utterance; Mary gentle, silent, or deliberate in
speech. In after life, there was another sad similarity for Dorothy's
reason, too, was in the end over-clouded. Coleridge has described her
as she then was: "She is a woman indeed," said he, "in mind, I mean,
and in heart; for her person is such that if you expected to see a
pretty woman, you would think her ordinary; if you expected to see an
ordinary woman, you would think her pretty; but her manners are
simple, ardent, and impressive. In every motion her innocent soul
outbeams so brightly, that who saw her would say 'guilt was a thing
impossible with her.' Her information various, her eye watchful in
minute observation of nature, and her taste a perfect electrometer."

An accident had lamed Coleridge the very morning after Lamb's arrival,
so that he was unable to share his friends' walks. He turned his
imprisonment to golden account by writing a poem which mirrors for us,
as in a still lake, the beauty of the Quantock hills and vales where
they were roaming, the scenes amid which these great and happy days of
youth and poetry and friendship were passed. It is the very poem in
the margin of which, eight and thirty years afterwards, Coleridge on
his death-bed wrote down the sum of his love for Charles and Mary
Lamb.

    THIS LIME-TREE BOWER MY PRISON.

    Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
    This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
    Beauties and feelings such as would have been
    Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
    Had dimmed mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,
    Friends whom I never more may meet again
    On springy heath, along the hill-top edge
    Wander in gladness and wind down, perchance,
    To that still roaring dell of which I told;
    The roaring dell, o'erwooded, narrow, deep,
    And only speckled by the mid-day sun;
    Where its slim trunk the ash, from rock to rock
    Flings arching like a bridge;--that branchless ash,
    Unsunned and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
    Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
    Fanned by the water-fall! and there my friends
    Behold the dark green file of long, lank weeds,
    That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
    Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
    Of the blue clay-stone.
                            Now, my friends emerge
    Beneath the wide wide heaven--and view again
    The many-steepled tract magnificent
    Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
    With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
    The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
    Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
    In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
    My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
    And hungered after Nature, many a year,
    In the great City pent, winning thy way
    With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
    And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
    Behind the western ridge, thou glorious sun!
    Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
    Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn ye clouds!
    Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
    And kindle, thou blue ocean! So my Friend,
    Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
    Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
    On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
    Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
    As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
    Spirits perceive His presence....

       *       *       *       *       *

On Lamb's return, he wrote in the same modest vein as before--

"I am scarcely yet so reconciled to the loss of you or so subsided
into my wonted uniformity of feeling as to sit calmly down to think of
you and write.... Is the patriot [Thelwall] come? Are Wordsworth and
his sister gone yet? I was looking out for John Thelwall all the way
from Bridgewater and had I met him I think it would have moved me
almost to tears. You will oblige me, too, by sending me my great-coat
which I left behind in the oblivious state the mind is thrown into at
parting. Is it not ridiculous that I sometimes envy that great-coat
lingering so cunningly behind! At present I have none; so send it me
by a Stowey waggon if there be such a thing, directing it for C. L.,
No. 45, Chapel Street, Pentonville, near London. But above all, _that
inscription_ [of Wordsworth's]. It will recall to me the tones of all
your voices, and with them many a remembered kindness to one who could
and can repay you all only by the silence of a grateful heart. I could
not talk much while I was with you but my silence was not sullenness
nor I hope from any bad motive; but in truth, disuse has made me
awkward at it. I know I behaved myself, particularly at Tom Poole's
and at Cruikshank's most like a sulky child; but company and converse
are strange to me. It was kind in you all to endure me as you did.

"Are you and your dear Sara--to me also very dear because very
kind--agreed yet about the management of little Hartley? And how go on
the little rogue's teeth?"

The mention of his address in the foregoing letter, shows that Lamb
and his father had already quitted Little Queen Street. It is probable
that they did so, indeed, immediately after the great tragedy; to
escape, not only from the painful associations of the spot but also
from the cruel curiosity which its terrible notoriety must have drawn
upon them. The season was coming round which could not but renew his
and Mary's grief and anguish in the recollection of that "day of
horrors." "Friday next, Coleridge," he writes, "is the day (September
22nd) on which my mother died;" and in the letter is enclosed that
beautiful and affecting poem beginning:--

    Alas! how am I changed? Where be the tears,
    The sobs, and forced suspensions of the breath,
    And all the dull desertions of the heart,
    With which I hung o'er my dead mother's corse?
    Where be the blest subsidings of the storm
    Within? The sweet resignedness of hope
    Drawn heavenward, and strength of filial love
    In which I bowed me to my Father's will?

       *       *       *       *       *

Mary's was a silent grief. But those few casual pathetic words written
years afterwards speak her life-long sorrow,--"my dear mother who,
though you do not know it, is always in my poor head and heart." She
continued quiet in her lodgings, free from relapse till toward the end
of the year.

On the 10th December Charles wrote in bad spirits,--"My teasing lot
makes me too confused for a clear judgment of things; too selfish for
sympathy.... My sister is pretty well, thank God. We think of you very
often. God bless you. Continue to be my correspondent, and I will
strive to fancy that this world is _not_ 'all barrenness.'"

But by Christmas Day she was once more in the asylum. In sad solitude
he gave utterance, again in verse form, to his overflowing grief and
love:--

    I am a widow'd thing now thou art gone!
    Now thou art gone, my own familiar friend,
    Companion, sister, helpmate, counsellor!
    Alas! that honour'd mind whose sweet reproof
    And meekest wisdom in times past have smooth'd
    The unfilial harshness of my foolish speech,
    And made me loving to my parents old
    (Why is this so, ah God! why is this so?)
    That honour'd mind become a fearful blank,
    Her senses lock'd up, and herself kept out
    From human sight or converse, while so many
    Of the foolish sort are left to roam at large,
    Doing all acts of folly and sin and shame?
    Thy paths are mystery!
                         Yet I will not think
    Sweet friend, but we shall one day meet and live
    In quietness and die so, fearing God.
    Or if _not_, and these false suggestions be
    A fit of the weak nature, loth to part
    With what it loved so long and held so dear;
    If thou art to be taken and I left
    (More sinning, yet unpunish'd save in thee,)
    It is the will of God, and we are clay
    In the potter's hand; and at the worst are made
    From absolute nothing, vessels of disgrace,
    Till His most righteous purpose wrought in us,
    Our purified spirits find their perfect rest.

To add to these sorrows Coleridge had, for some time, been growing
negligent as a correspondent. So early as April Lamb had written,
after affectionate enquiries for Hartley "the minute philosopher" and
Hartley's mother,--"Coleridge, I am not trifling, nor are these
matter-of-fact questions only. You are all very dear and precious to
me. Do what you will, Coleridge, you may hurt and vex me by your
silence but you cannot estrange my heart from you all. I cannot
scatter friendships like chuck-farthings, nor let them drop from mine
hand like hour-glass sand. I have but two or three people in the world
to whom I am more than indifferent and I can't afford to whistle them
off to the winds."

And again, three months after his return from Stowey, he wrote
sorrowfully almost plaintively, remonstrating for Lloyd's sake and his
own:--

"You use Lloyd very ill, never writing to him. I tell you again that
his is not a mind with which you should play tricks. He deserves more
tenderness from you. For myself, I must spoil a little passage of
Beaumont and Fletcher's to adapt it to my feelings:

         I am prouder
    That I was once your friend, tho' now forgot,
    Than to have had another true to me.

If you don't write to me now, as I told Lloyd, I shall get angry and
call you hard names--'Manchineel'" (alluding to a passage in a poem of
Coleridge's, where he compares a false friend to the treacherous
manchineel tree[1] which mingles its own venom with the rain and
poisons him who rests beneath its shade) "and I don't know what else.
I wish you would send me my great-coat. The snow and the rain season
is at hand and I have but a wretched old coat, once my father's, to
keep 'em off and that is transitory.

    When time drives flocks from field to fold,
    When ways grow foul and blood gets cold,

I shall remember where I left my coat. Meet emblem wilt thou be, old
Winter, of a friend's neglect--cold, cold, cold!"

But this fresh stroke of adversity, sweeping away the fond hope
Charles had begun to cherish that "Mary would never be so ill again,"
roused his friend's sometimes torpid but deep and enduring affection
for him into action. "You have writ me many kind letters, and I have
answered none of them," says Lamb, on the 28th of January 1798. "I
don't deserve your attentions. An unnatural indifference has been
creeping on me since my last misfortunes or I should have seized the
first opening of a correspondence with you. These last afflictions,
Coleridge, have failed to soften and bend my will. They found me
unprepared.... I have been very querulous, impatient under the
rod--full of little jealousies and heart-burnings. I had well-nigh
quarrelled with Charles Lloyd; and for no other reason, I believe,
than that the good creature did all he could to make me happy. The
truth is I thought he tried to force my mind from its natural and
proper bent. He continually wished me to be from home; he was drawing
me _from_ the consideration of my poor dear Mary's situation rather
than assisting me to gain a proper view of it with religious
consolations. I wanted to be left to the tendency of my own mind in a
solitary state which in times past, I knew, had led to quietness and a
patient bearing of the yoke. He was hurt that I was not more
constantly with him; but he was living with White (Jem White, an old
school-fellow, author of _Falstaff's Letters_), a man to whom I had
never been accustomed to impart my _dearest feelings_ though, from
long habits of friendliness and many a social and good quality, I
loved him very much. I met company there sometimes, indiscriminate
company. Any society almost, when I am in affliction, is sorely
painful to me. I seem to breathe more freely, to think more
collectedly, to feel more properly and calmly when alone. All these
things the good creature did with the kindest intentions in the world
but they produced in me nothing but soreness and discontent. I became,
as he complained, 'jaundiced' towards him ... but he has forgiven me;
and his smile, I hope, will draw all such humours from me. I am
recovering, God be praised for it, a healthiness of mind, something
like calmness; but I want more religion.... Mary is recovering; but I
see no opening yet of a situation for her. Your invitation went to my
very heart; but you have a power of exciting interest, of leading all
hearts captive, too forcible to admit of Mary's being with you. I
consider her as perpetually on the brink of madness. I think you would
almost make her dance within an inch of the precipice: she must be
with duller fancies and cooler intellects. I know a young man of this
description, who has suited her these twenty years, and may live to do
so still, if we are one day restored to each other."

But the clouds gathered up again between the friends, generated partly
by a kind of intellectual arrogance whereof Coleridge afterwards
accused himself (he was often but too self-depreciatory in after life)
which, in spite of Lamb's generous and unbounded admiration for his
friend, did at last both irritate and hurt him; still more by the
influence of Lloyd who, himself slighted as he fancied, and full of a
morbid sensitiveness "bordering on derangement," sometimes indeed
overleaping that border, worked upon Lamb's soreness of feeling till a
brief estrangement ensued. Lamb had not yet learned to be on his guard
with Lloyd. Years afterwards he wrote of him to Coleridge: "He is a
sad tattler; but this is under the rose. Twenty years ago he estranged
one friend from me quite, whom I have been regretting, but never could
regain since. He almost alienated you also from me or me from you, I
don't know which: but that breach is closed. The 'dreary sea' is
filled up. He has lately been at work 'telling again,' as they call
it, a most gratuitous piece of mischief, and has caused a coolness
betwixt me and (not a friend but) an intimate acquaintance. I suspect,
also, he saps Manning's faith in me who am to Manning more than an
acquaintance."

The breach was closed, indeed, almost as soon as opened. But Coleridge
went away to Germany for fourteen months and the correspondence was
meanwhile suspended. When it was resumed Lamb was, in some respects,
an altered man; he was passing from youth to maturity, enlarging the
circle of his acquaintance and entering on more or less continuous
literary work; whilst, on the other hand, the weaknesses which
accompanied the splendid endowments of his friend were becoming but
too plainly apparent; and though they never for a moment lessened
Lamb's affection, nay, with his fine humanity seemed to give rather an
added tenderness to it, there was inevitably a less deferential, a
more humorous and playful tone on his side in their intercourse.
"Bless you, old sophist who, next to human nature, taught me all the
corruption I was capable of knowing," says he to the poet-philosopher
by-and-by. And the weak side of his friend's style, too, received an
occasional sly thrust; as for instance when on forwarding him some
books he writes in 1800 "I detained _Statius_ wilfully, out of a
reverent regard to your style. _Statius_ they tell me is turgid."


Footnote 1: _Hippomane Mancinella_, one of the _Euphorbiaceæ_, a
native of South America.



CHAPTER IV.

Death of the Father.--Mary comes Home to live.--A Removal.--First
Verses.--A Literary Tea-Party.--Another Move.--Friends increase.

1799-1800.--Æt. 35-36.


The feeble flame of life in Lamb's father flickered on for two years
and a half after his wife's death. He was laid to rest at last beside
her and his sister Hetty in the churchyard of St. Andrew's, Holborn
(now swept away in the building of the Holborn Viaduct), on the 13th
of April 1799, and Mary came home once more. There is no mention of
either fact in Lamb's letters; for Coleridge was away in Germany; and
with Southey, who was almost the sole correspondent of this year, the
tie was purely intellectual and never even in that kind a close one. A
significant allusion to Mary there is, however, in a letter to him
dated May 20: "Mary was never in better health or spirits than now."
But neither the happiness of sharing Charles's home again nor anything
else could save her from the constant recurrence of her malady; nor,
in these early days, from the painful notoriety of what had befallen
her; and they were soon regarded as unwelcome inmates in the Chapel
Street lodgings.

Early in 1800 be tells Coleridge: "Soon after I wrote to you last an
offer was made me by Gutch (you must remember him at Christ's) to come
and lodge with him at his house in Southampton Buildings, Chancery
Lane. This was a very comfortable offer to me, the rooms being at a
reasonable rent and including the use of an old servant, besides being
infinitely preferable to ordinary lodgings _in our case_ as you must
perceive. As Gutch knew all our story and the perpetual liability to a
recurrence in my sister's disorder, probably to the end of her life, I
certainly think the offer very generous and very friendly. I have got
three rooms (including servant) under £34 a year. Here I soon found
myself at home, and here, in six weeks after, Mary was well enough to
join me. So we are once more settled. I am afraid we are not placed
out of the reach of future interruptions; but I am determined to take
what snatches of pleasure we can, between the acts of our distressful
drama. I have passed two days at Oxford, on a visit, which I have long
put off, to Gutch's family. The sight of the Bodleian Library and,
above all, a fine bust of Bishop Taylor at All Souls' were
particularly gratifying to me. Unluckily it was not a family where I
could take Mary with me, and I am afraid there is something of
dishonesty in any pleasure I take without _her_. She never goes
anywhere." And to Manning: "It is a great object to me to live in
town." [Pentonville then too much of a gossiping country suburb!] "We
can be nowhere private except in the midst of London."

By the summer Mary was not only quite well but making a first essay in
verse--the theme, a playful mockery of her brother's boyish love for a
pictured beauty at Blakesware described in his essay,--"that Beauty
with the cool blue pastoral drapery and a lamb, that hung next the
great bay window, with the bright yellow H----shire hair, and eye of
watchet hue--so like my Alice! I am persuaded she was a true
Elia--Mildred Elia, I take it. From her and from my passion for
her--for I first learned love from a picture--Bridget took the hint of
those pretty whimsical lines which thou mayest see if haply thou hast
never seen them, reader, in the margin. But my Mildred grew not old
like the imaginary Helen."

With brotherly pride he sends them to Coleridge: "How do you like this
little epigram? It is not my writing, nor had I any finger in it. If
you concur with me in thinking it very elegant and very original, I
shall be tempted to name the author to you. I will just hint that it
is almost or quite a first attempt:--

    HELEN.

    High-born Helen, round your dwelling
    These twenty years I've paced in vain;
    Haughty beauty, thy lover's duty
    Hath been to glory in his pain.

    High-born Helen, proudly telling
    Stories of thy cold disdain;
    I starve, I die, now you comply,
    And I no longer can complain.

    These twenty years I've lived on tears,
    Dwelling forever on a frown;
    On sighs I've fed, your scorn my bread;
    I perish now you kind are grown.

    Can I who loved my beloved,
    But for the scorn "was in her eye";
    Can I be moved for my beloved,
    When she "returns me sigh for sigh"?

    In stately pride, by my bed-side
    High-born Helen's portrait's hung;
    Deaf to my praise, my mournful lays
    Are nightly to the portrait sung.

    To that I weep, nor ever sleep,
    Complaining all night long to her.
    _Helen grown old, no longer cold.
    Said_, "You to all men I prefer."

Lamb inserted this and another by Mary, a serious and tender little
poem, the _Dialogue between a Mother and Child_ beginning

    O lady, lay your costly robes aside,
    No longer may you glory in your pride,

in the first collected edition of his works.

Mary now began also to go out with her brother, and the last record of
this year in the Coleridge correspondence discloses them at a literary
tea-party, not in the character of lions but only as friends of a
lion--Coleridge--who had already become, in his frequent visits to
town, the prey of some third-rate admiring literary ladies, notably of
a certain Miss Wesley (niece of John Wesley) and of her friend Miss
Benger, authoress of a _Life of Tobin_, &c.

"You blame us for giving your direction to Miss Wesley," says the
letter; "the woman has been ten times after us about it and we gave it
her at last, under the idea that no further harm would ensue, but that
she would _once_ write to you, and you would bite your lips and forget
to answer it, and so it would end. You read us a dismal homily upon
'Realities.' We know quite as well as you do what are shadows and what
are realities. You, for instance, when you are over your fourth or
fifth jorum, chirping about old school occurrences, are the best of
realities. Shadows are cold, thin things that have no warmth or grasp
in them. Miss Wesley and her friend and a tribe of authoresses that
come after you here daily and, in defect of you, hive and cluster upon
us, are the shadows. You encouraged that mopsey Miss Wesley to dance
after you in the hope of having her nonsense put into a nonsensical
anthology. We have pretty well shaken her off by that simple expedient
of referring her to you, but there are more burs in the wind. I came
home t'other day from business, hungry as a hunter, to dinner, with
nothing, I am sure, of the author but _hunger_ about me; and whom
found I closeted with Mary but a friend of this Miss Wesley, one Miss
Benjay or Benje ... I just came in time enough, I believe, luckily to
prevent them from exchanging vows of eternal friendship. It seems she
is one of your authoresses that you first foster and then upbraid us
with. But I forgive you. 'The rogue has given me potions to make me
love him.' Well, go she would not nor step a step over our threshold
till we had promised to come to drink tea with her next night. I had
never seen her before and could not tell who the devil it was that was
so familiar. We went, however, not to be impolite. Her lodgings are up
two pair of stairs in East Street. Tea and coffee and macaroons--a
kind of cake--much love. We sat down. Presently Miss Benjay broke the
silence by declaring herself quite of a different opinion from
_D'Israeli_, who supposes the differences of human intellect to be the
mere effect of organization. She begged to know my opinion. I
attempted to carry it off with a pun upon organ, but that went off
very flat. She immediately conceived a very low opinion of my
metaphysics; and turning round to Mary, put some question to her in
French, possibly having heard that neither Mary nor I understood
French. The explanation that took place occasioned some embarrassment
and much wondering. She then fell into an insulting conversation about
the comparative genius and merits of all modern languages and
concluded with asserting that the Saxon was esteemed the purest
dialect in Germany. From thence she passed into the subject of poetry
where I, who had hitherto sat mute and a hearer only, humbly hoped I
might now put in a word to some advantage, seeing that it was my own
trade in a manner. But I was stopped by a round assertion that no good
poetry had appeared since Dr. Johnson's time. It seems the doctor has
suppressed many hopeful geniuses that way, by the severity of his
critical strictures in his _Lives of the Poets_. I here ventured to
question the fact and was beginning to appeal to _names_ but I was
assured 'it was certainly the case.' Then we discussed Miss More's
[Hannah] book on education, which I had never read. It seems Dr.
Gregory, another of Miss Benjay's friends, had found fault with one of
Miss More's metaphors. Miss More has been at some pains to vindicate
herself, in the opinion of Miss Benjay not without success. It seems
the Doctor is invariably against the use of broken or mixed metaphor
which he reprobates, against the authority of Shakspeare himself. We
next discussed the question whether Pope was a poet? I find Dr.
Gregory is of opinion he was not, though Miss Seward does not at all
concur with him in this. We then sat upon the comparative merits of
the ten translations of Pizarro and Miss Benjay or Benje advised Mary
to take two of them home (she thought it might afford her some
pleasure to compare them _verbatim_), which we declined. It being now
nine o'clock, wine and macaroons were again served round, and we
parted with a promise to go again next week and meet the Miss Porters
who, it seems, have heard much of Mr. Coleridge and wish to see _us_
because we are _his_ friends. I have been preparing for the occasion.
I crowd cotton in my ears. I read all the reviews and magazines of the
past month against the dreadful meeting, and I hope by these means to
cut a tolerable second-rate figure.

"... Take no thought about your proof-sheets; they shall be done as if
Woodfall himself did them. Pray send us word of Mrs. Coleridge and
little David Hartley, your little reality. Farewell, dear Substance.
Take no umbrage at anything I have written.

               "I am, and will be,
                    "Yours ever in sober sadness,
 "Land of Shadows,                             C. LAMB. _Umbra._

"Shadow month 16th or 17th, 1800.

"Write your German as plain as sunshine, for that must correct itself.
You know I am _homo unius linguæ_: in English--illiterate, a dunce, a
ninny."

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Gutch seems to have soon repented him of his friendly deed:--

"I am going to change my lodgings, having received a hint that it
would be agreeable at Our Lady's next feast," writes Lamb to Manning.
"I have partly fixed upon most delectable rooms which look out (when
you stand a-tip-toe) over the Thames and Surrey hills.... My bed faces
the river so as by perking up on my haunches and supporting my carcase
with my elbows, without much wrying my neck I can see the white sails
glide by the bottom of the King's Bench Walk as I lie in my bed ...
casement windows with small panes to look more like a cottage....
There I shall have all the privacy of a house without the encumbrance
and shall be able to lock my friends out as often as I desire to hold
free converse with my immortal mind, for my present lodgings resemble
a minister's levée, I have so increased my acquaintance (as they call
'em) since I have resided in town. Like the country mouse that had
tasted a little of urbane manners, I long to be nibbling my own cheese
by my dear self, without mouse-traps and time-traps."

These rooms were at No. 16, Mitre Court Buildings, and here Lamb and
his sister lived for nine years. But far from "nibbling his own
cheese" by himself, there for nine years he and Mary gathered round
their hearth and homely, hospitable supper-table with its bread and
cheese in these early days and by-and-by its round of beef or "winter
hand of pork," an ever lengthening succession of friends, cronies and
acquaintance. There came Manning with his "fine, sceptical, dogmatical
face"; and George Dyer, with his head full of innutritious learning
and his heart of the milk of kindness. And Godwin the man of strange
contrasts, a bold thinker yet ignorant as a child of human nature and
weakly vain; with such a "noisy fame," for a time, as if he were
"Briareus Centimanus or a Tityus tall enough to pull Jupiter from his
heavens," and then soon forgotten, or remembered only to be denounced;
for a year the loving husband of one of the sweetest and noblest of
women and after her death led captive by the coarse flatteries and
vulgar pretensions of one of the commonest. "Is it possible that I
behold the immortal Godwin?" said, from a neighbouring balcony, she
who in a few months became his second wife and in a few more had
alienated some of his oldest friends and earned the cordial dislike of
all, even of Lamb. "I will be buried with this inscription over me,
'Here lies C. L., the woman-hater,' I mean that hated one woman; for
the rest, God bless 'em," was his whimsical way of venting his
feelings towards her; and Shelley experienced the like though he
expressed them less pungently. Then there was Holcroft who had fought
his way up from grimmest poverty, misery and ignorance to the position
of an accomplished literary man; and fine old Captain Burney who had
been taught his accidence by Eugene Aram and had sailed round the
world with Captain Cook. And his son, 'noisy Martin' with the
'spotless soul,' for forty years boy and man, Mary's favourite; and
Phillips of the Marines who was with Captain Cook at his death and
shot the savage that killed him; and Rickman "the finest fellow to
drop in a' nights," Southey's great friend, though he 'never read his
poetry,' as Lamb tells; staunch Crabb Robinson; Fanny Kelly, with her
"divine plain face" who died but the other day at the age of ninety
odd; and Mr. Dawe, R.A., a figure of nature's own purest comedy. All
these and many more frequented the home of Charles and Mary Lamb in
these years and live in their letters.



CHAPTER V.

Personal Appearance and Manners.--Health.--Influence of Mary's
Illnesses upon Her Brother.


No description of Mary Lamb's person in youth is to be found; but hers
was a kind of face which time treats gently, adding with one hand
while he takes away with the other; compensating by deepened traces of
thought and kindliness the loss of youthful freshness. Like her
brother, her features were well formed. "Her face was pale and
somewhat square, very placid, with grey, intelligent eyes" says
Proctor who first saw her when she was about fifty-three. "Eyes brown,
soft and penetrating" says another friend, Mrs. Cowden Clarke,
confirming the observation that it is difficult to judge of the colour
of expressive eyes. She, too, lays stress upon the strong resemblance
to Charles and especially on a smile like his, "winning in the
extreme." De Quincey speaks of her as "that Madonna-like lady."

The only original portrait of her in existence, I believe, is that by
the late Mr. Cary (son of Lamb's old friend), now in the possession of
Mr. Edward Hughes, and engraved in the _Memoir_ of Lamb by Barry
Cornwall; also in _Scribner's Magazine_ for March 1881 where it is
accompanied by a letter from Mr. Cary which states that it was painted
in 1834 when Mary was seventy. She stands a little behind her brother,
resting one hand on him and one on the back of his chair. There is a
characteristic sweetness in her attitude and the countenance is full
of goodness and intelligence; whilst the finer modelling of Charles'
features and the intellectual beauty of his head are rendered with
considerable success,--Crabb Robinson's strictures notwithstanding
who, it appears, saw not the original, but a poor copy of the figure
of Charles. It was from Cary's picture that Mr. Armitage, R.A.
executed the portraits of the Lambs in the large fresco on the walls
of University College Hall. Among its many groups (of which Crabb
Robinson, who commissioned the fresco, is the central figure), that
containing the Lambs includes also Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, and
Southey, By an unfortunate clause in the deed of gift the fresco,
which is painted in monochrome, is forbidden to be cleaned, even with
bread-crumb; it is therefore already very dingy.

In stature, Mary was under the middle size and her bodily frame was
strong. She could walk fifteen miles with ease; her brother speaks of
their having walked thirty miles together and, even at sixty years of
age, she was capable of twelve miles "most days." Regardless of
weather, too, as Leigh Hunt pleasantly tells in his _Familiar Epistle
in Verse_ to Lamb:--

    You'll guess why I can't see the snow-covered streets,
    Without thinking of you and your visiting feats,
    When you call to remembrance how you and one more,
    When I wanted it most, used to knock at my door;
    For when the sad winds told us rain would come down,
    Or when snow upon snow fairly clogg'd up the town,
    And dun-yellow fogs brooded over its white,
    So that scarcely a being was seen towards night,
    Then--then said the lady yclept near and dear:
    Now, mind what I tell you--the Lambs will be here.
    So I poked up the flame, and she got out the tea,
    And down we both sat as prepared as could be;
    And then, sure as fate came the knock of you two,
    Then the lanthorn, the laugh, and the "Well, how d'ye do?"

Mary's manners were easy, quiet, unpretending; to her brother gentle
and tender always, says Mrs. Cowden-Clarke. She had often an upward
look of peculiar meaning when directed towards him, as though to give
him an assurance that all was well with her; and away of repeating his
words assentingly when he spoke to her. "He once said, with his
peculiar mode of tenderness beneath blunt, abrupt speech, 'You must
die first, Mary.' She nodded with her little quiet nod and sweet
smile, 'Yes, I must die first, Charles,'" When they were in company
together her eyes followed him everywhere; and even when he was
talking at the other end of the room, she would supply some word he
wanted. 'Her voice was soft and persuasive, with at times a certain
catch, a kind of emotional stress in breathing, which gave a charm to
her reading of poetry and a captivating earnestness to her mode of
speech when addressing those she liked. It was a slight check that had
an eager yearning effect in her voice, creating a softened resemblance
to her brother's stammer'--that "pleasant little stammer," as Barry
Cornwall called it, "just enough to prevent his making speeches; just
enough to make you listen eagerly for his words." Like him, too, she
took snuff. "She had a small, white, delicately-formed hand; and as it
hovered above the tortoise-shell snuff-box, the act seemed yet another
link of association between the brother and sister as they sat
together over their favourite books."

Mary's dress was always plain and neat; not changing much with
changing fashions; yet, with no unfeminine affectation of complete
indifference. "I do dearly love worked muslin," says she, in one of
her letters and the "Manning silks" were worn with no little
satisfaction. As she advanced in years she usually wore black stuff or
silk; or, on great occasions, a "dove-coloured silk, with a kerchief
of snow-white muslin folded across her bosom," with a cap of the kind
in fashion in her youth, a deep-frilled border, and a bow on the top.

Mary's severe nurture, though undoubtedly it bore with too heavy a
strain on her physical and mental constitution, fitted her morally and
practically for the task which she and her brother fulfilled to
admiration--that of making an income which, for two-thirds of their
joint lives, could not have exceeded two or three hundreds a year,
suffice for the heavy expense of her yearly illnesses, for an
open-handed hospitality and for the wherewithal to help a friend in
need, not to speak of their extensive acquaintance among "the great
race of borrowers." He was, says de Quincey, "_princely_--nothing
short of that in his beneficence.... Never anyone have I known in this
world upon whom for bounty, for indulgence and forgiveness, for
charitable construction of doubtful or mixed actions, and for regal
munificence, you might have thrown yourself with so absolute a
reliance as upon this comparatively poor Charles Lamb." There was a
certain old-world fashion in Mary's speech corresponding to her
appearance, which was quaint and pleasant; "yet she was oftener a
listener than a speaker, and beneath her sparing talk and retiring
manner few would have suspected the ample information and large
intelligence that lay concealed."

But for her portrait sweetly touched in with subtle tender strokes,
such as he who knew and loved her best could alone give, we must turn
to Elia's _Mackery End:_--"... I have obligations to Bridget extending
beyond the period of memory. We house together, old bachelor and maid,
in a sort of double singleness, with such tolerable comfort, upon the
whole, that I, for one, find in myself no sort of disposition to go
out upon the mountains, with the rash king's offspring, to bewail my
celibacy. We agree pretty well in our tastes and habits, yet so as
'with a difference.' We are generally in harmony, with occasional
bickerings, as it should be among near relations. Our sympathies are
rather understood than expressed; and once, upon my dissembling a tone
in my voice more kind than ordinary, my cousin burst into tears, and
complained that I was altered. We are both great readers, in different
directions. While I am hanging over, for the thousandth time, some
passage in old Burton, or one of his strange contemporaries, she is
abstracted in some modern tale or adventure, whereof our common
reading table is daily fed with assiduously fresh supplies. Narrative
teases me. I have little concern in the progress of events. She must
have a story--well, ill, or indifferently told--so there be life
stirring in it and plenty of good or evil accidents. The fluctuations
of fortune in fiction--and almost in real life--have ceased to
interest, or operate but dully upon me. Out-of-the-way humours and
opinions--heads with some diverting twist in them--the oddities of
authorship, please me most. My cousin has a native disrelish of
anything that sounds odd or bizarre. Nothing goes down with her that
is quaint, irregular, or out of the road of common sympathy. She holds
nature more clever.... We are both of us inclined to be a little too
positive; and I have observed the result of our disputes to be almost
uniformly this: that in matters of fact, dates, and circumstances, it
turns out that I was in the right and my cousin in the wrong. But
where we have differed upon moral points, upon something proper to be
done or let alone, whatever heat of opposition or steadiness of
conviction I set out with, I am sure always, in the long run, to be
brought over to her way of thinking. I must touch upon the foibles of
my kinswoman with a gentle hand, for Bridget does not like to be told
of her faults. She hath an awkward trick (to say no worse of it) of
reading in company; at which times she will answer _yes_ or _no_ to a
question without fully understanding its purport, which is provoking
and derogatory in the highest degree to the dignity of the putter of
the said question. Her presence of mind is equal to the most pressing
trials of life, but will sometimes desert her upon trifling occasions.
When the purpose requires it, and is a thing of moment, she can speak
to it greatly; but in matters which are not stuff of the conscience
she hath been known sometimes to let slip a word less seasonably....

"In seasons of distress she is the truest comforter, but in the
teasing accidents and minor perplexities which do not call out the
_will_ to meet them, she sometimes maketh matters worse by an excess
of participation. If she does not always divide your trouble, upon the
pleasanter occasions of life she is sure always to treble your
satisfaction. She is excellent to be at a play with, or upon a visit;
but best when she goes a journey with you."

"Little could anyone observing Miss Lamb in the habitual serenity of
her demeanour," writes Talfourd, "guess the calamity in which she had
partaken, or the malady which frightfully chequered her life. From Mr.
Lloyd who, although saddened by impending delusion, was always found
accurate in his recollection of long past events and conversations, I
learned that she had described herself, on her recovery from the fatal
attack, as having experienced while it was subsiding such a conviction
that she was absolved in heaven from all taint of the deed in which
she had been the agent--such an assurance that it was a dispensation
of Providence for good, though so terrible--such a sense that her
mother knew her entire innocence and shed down blessings upon her, as
though she had seen the reconcilement in solemn vision--that she was
not sorely afflicted by the recollection. It was as if the old Greek
notion of the necessity for the unconscious shedder of blood, else
polluted though guiltless, to pass through a religious purification,
had, in her case, been happily accomplished; so that not only was she
without remorse, but without other sorrow than attends on the death of
an infirm parent in a good old age. She never shrank from alluding to
her mother when any topic connected with her own youth made such a
reference, in ordinary respects, natural; but spoke of her as though
no fearful remembrance was associated with the image; so that some of
her most intimate friends who knew of the disaster believed that she
had never become aware of her own share in its horrors. It is still
more singular that in the wanderings of her insanity, amidst all the
vast throngs of imagery she presented of her early days, this picture
never recurred or, if ever it did, not associated with shapes of
terror."

Perhaps this was not so surprising as at first sight it appears; for
the deed was done in a state of frenzy, in which the brain could no
more have received a definite impression of the scene than waves
lashed by storm can reflect an image. Her knowledge of the facts was
never coloured by consciousness but came to her from without "as a
tale that is told." The statement, also, that Mary could always speak
calmly of her mother, seems to require some qualification. Emma Isola,
Lamb's adopted daughter, afterwards Mrs. Moxon, once asked her,
ignorant of the facts, why she never spoke of her mother and was
answered only with a cry of distress; probably the question coming
abruptly and from a child confronted her in a new, sudden and
peculiarly painful way with the tragedy of her youth.

"Miss Lamb would have been remarkable for the sweetness of her
disposition, the clearness of her understanding, and the gentle wisdom
of all her acts and words," continues Talfourd, "even if these
qualities had not been presented in marvellous contrast with the
distractions under which she suffered for weeks, latterly for months
in every year. There was no tinge of insanity discernible in her
manner to the most observant eye; not even in those distressful
periods when the premonitory symptoms had apprised her of its
approach, and she was making preparations for seclusion." This, too,
must be taken with some qualification. In a letter from Coleridge to
Matilda Betham, he mentions that Mary had been to call on the Godwins
"and that her manner of conversation had greatly alarmed them (dear
excellent creature! such is the restraining power of her love for
Charles Lamb over her mind, that he is always the last person in whose
presence any alienation of her understanding betrays itself); that she
talked far more, and with more agitation concerning me than about G.
Burnet [the too abrupt mention of whose death had upset her; he was an
old friend and one of the original Pantisocratic group] and told Mrs.
Godwin that she herself had written to William Wordsworth exhorting
him to come to town immediately, for that my mind was seriously
unhinged." To resume. "Her character," wrote Talfourd, "in all its
essential sweetness, was like her brother's; while, by a temper more
placid, a spirit of enjoyment more serene, she was enabled to guide,
to counsel, to cheer him and to protect him on the verge of the
mysterious calamity from the depths of which she rose so often
unruffled to his side. To a friend in any difficulty she was the most
comfortable of advisers, the wisest of consolers. Hazlitt used to say
that he never met with a woman who could reason and had met with only
one thoroughly reasonable--the sole exception being Mary Lamb. She did
not wish, however, to be made an exception, to the general
disparagement of her sex; for in all her thoughts and feelings she was
most womanly--keeping under even undue subordination to her notion of
a woman's province, an intellect of rare excellence which flashed out
when the restraints of gentle habit and humble manner were withdrawn
by the terrible force of disease. Though her conversation in sanity
was never marked by smartness or repartee, seldom rising beyond that
of a sensible quiet gentlewoman appreciating and enjoying the talents
of her friends, it was otherwise in her madness. Lamb in his letter to
Miss Fryer announcing his determination to be entirely with her,
speaks of her pouring out memories of all the events and persons of
her younger days; but he does not mention what I am able from repeated
experiences to add, that her ramblings often sparkled with brilliant
description and shattered beauty. She would fancy herself in the days
of Queen Anne or George the First; and describe the brocaded dames and
courtly manners as though she had been bred among them, in the best
style of the old comedy. It was all broken and disjointed, so that the
hearer could remember little of her discourse; but the fragments were
like the jewelled speeches of Congreve, only shaken from their
settings. There was sometimes even a vein of crazy logic running
through them, associating things essentially most dissimilar, but
connecting them by a verbal association in strange order. As a mere
physical instance of deranged intellect, her condition was, I believe,
extraordinary; it was as if the finest elements of the mind had been
shaken into fantastic combinations, like those of a kaleidoscope."

The immediate cause of her attacks would generally seem to have been
excitement or over-fatigue causing, in the first instance, loss of
sleep, a feverish restlessness and ending in the complete overthrow of
reason. "Her relapses," says Proctor, "were not dependent on the
seasons; they came in hot summer and with the freezing winters. The
only remedy seems to have been extreme quiet when any slight symptom
of uneasiness was apparent. If any exciting talk occurred Charles had
to dismiss his friend with a whisper. If any stupor or extraordinary
silence was observed then he had to rouse her instantly. He has been
seen to take the kettle from the fire and place it for a moment on her
headdress, in order to startle her into recollection." Once the sudden
announcement of the marriage of a young friend--whose welfare she had
at heart--restored her, in a moment, after a protracted illness, "as
if by an electrical stroke, to the entire possession of her senses."
But if no precautions availed to remove the premonitory symptom, then
would Mary "as gently as possible prepare her brother for the duty he
must perform; and thus, unless he could stave off the terrible
separation till Sunday, oblige him to ask leave of absence from the
office, as if for a day's pleasure--a bitter mockery! On one occasion
Mr. Charles Lloyd met them slowly pacing together a little foot-path
in Hoxton fields, both weeping bitterly and found, on joining them,
that they were taking their solemn way to the accustomed asylum."
Holiday trips were almost always followed by a seizure; and never did
Mary set out on one but with her own hands she packed a
strait-waistcoat.

The attacks were commonly followed by a period of extreme depression,
a sense of being shattered, and by a painful loss of self-reliance.
These were but temporary states, however. Mary's habitual frame of
mind was, as Talfourd says, serene and capable of placid enjoyment. In
her letters to Sarah Stoddart there are some affecting and probably
unique disclosures of how one who is suffering from madness feels; and
what, taught by her own experience, Mary regarded as the most
important points in the management of the insane. In reference to her
friend's mother who was thus afflicted, she writes:--

"Do not, I conjure you, let her unhappy malady afflict you too deeply.
I speak _from experience_ and from the opportunity I have had of much
observation in such cases that insane people, in the fancies they take
into their heads, do not feel as one in a sane state of mind does
under the real evil of poverty, the perception of having done wrong,
or of any such thing that runs in their heads.

"Think as little as you can, and let your whole care be to be certain
that she is treated with _tenderness_. I lay a stress upon this
because it is a thing of which people in her state are uncommonly
susceptible, and which hardly anyone is at all aware of; a hired nurse
_never_, even though in all other respects they are good kind of
people. I do not think your own presence necessary, unless she _takes
to you very much_, except for the purpose of seeing with your own eyes
that she is very kindly treated.

"I do long to see you! God bless and comfort you."

And again, a few weeks later:--

"After a very feverish night I writ a letter to you and I have been
distressed about it ever since. That which gives me most concern is
the way in which I talked about your mother's illness, and which I
have since feared you might construe into my having a doubt of your
showing her proper attention without my impertinent interference. God
knows, nothing of this kind was ever in my thoughts, but I have
entered very deeply into your affliction with regard to your mother;
and while I was writing, the many poor souls in the kind of desponding
way she is whom I have seen came fresh into my mind, and all the
mismanagement with which I have seen them treated was strong in my
mind, and I wrote under a forcible impulse which I could not at the
time resist, but I have fretted so much about it since that I think it
is the last time I will ever let my pen run away with me.

"Your kind heart will, I know, even if you have been a little
displeased, forgive me when I assure you my spirits have been so much
hurt by my last illness, that, at times, I hardly know what I do. I do
not mean to alarm you about myself, or to plead an excuse; but I am
very much otherwise than you have always known me. I do not think
anyone perceives me altered, but I have lost all self-confidence in my
own actions, and one cause of my low spirits is that I never feel
satisfied with anything I do--a perception of not being in a sane
state perpetually haunts me. I am ashamed to confess this weakness to
you; which, as I am so sensible of, I ought to strive to conquer. But
I tell you, that you may excuse any part of my letter that has given
offence; for your not answering it, when you are such a punctual
correspondent, has made me very uneasy.

"Write immediately, my dear Sarah, but do not notice this letter, nor
do not mention anything I said relative to your poor mother. Your
handwriting will convince me you are friends with me; and if Charles,
who must see my letter, was to know I had first written foolishly and
then fretted about the event of my folly, he would both ways be angry
with me.

"I would desire you to direct to me at home, but your hand is so well
known to Charles that that would not do. Therefore, take no notice of
my megrims till we meet, which I most ardently long to do. An hour
spent in your company would be a cordial to my drooping heart.

"Write, I beg, by the return of post; and as I am very anxious to hear
whether you are, as I fear, dissatisfied with me, you shall, if you
please, direct my letter to nurse. I do not mean to continue a secret
correspondence, but you must oblige me with this one letter. In future
I will always show my letters before they go, which will be a proper
check upon my wayward pen."

But it was upon her brother that the burthen lay heaviest. It was on
his brain that the cruel image of the mother's death-scene was burnt
in, and that the grief and loneliness consequent on Mary's ever
recurring attacks pressed sorest.

"His anxiety for her health, even in his most convivial moments, was
unceasing. If, in company, he perceived she looked languid, he would
repeatedly ask her, 'Mary, does your head ache?' Don't you feel
unwell? and would be satisfied by none of her gentle assurances that
his fears were groundless. He was always fearful of her sensibilities
being too deeply engaged and if, in her presence, any painful accident
or history was discussed, he would turn the conversation with some
desperate joke." Miss Betham related to Talfourd that, once when she
was speaking to Miss Lamb of her brother and in her earnestness Mary
had laid her hand kindly on the eulogist's shoulder, he came up
hastily and interrupted them saying, 'Come, come, we must not talk
sentimentally' and took up the conversation in his gayest strain.

The constant anxiety, the forebodings, the unremitting watchful
scrutiny of his sister's state, produced a nervous tension and
irritability that pervaded his whole life and manifested themselves in
many different ways.

"When she discovers symptoms of approaching illness," he once wrote to
Dorothy Wordsworth, "it is not easy to say what is best to do. Being
by ourselves is bad, and going out is bad. I get so irritable and
wretched with fear, that I constantly hasten on the disorder. You
cannot conceive the misery of such a foresight. I am sure that for the
week before she left me I was little better than light-headed. I now
am calm, but sadly, taken down and flat." Well might he say, "my
waking life has much of the confusion, the trouble and obscure
perplexity of an ill dream." For he, too, had to wrestle in his own
person with the same foe, the same hereditary tendency; though, after
one overthrow of reason in his youth, he wrestled successfully. But
the frequent allusions in his letters, especially in later years, to
attacks of nervous fever, sleeplessness, and depression "black as a
smith's beard, Vulcanic, Stygian" show how near to the brink he was
sometimes dragged. "You do not know how sore and weak a brain I have,
or you would allow for many things which you set down to whim," he
wrote to Godwin. And again, when there had been some coolness between
them: "... did the black Hypochondria never gripe _thy_ heart till
thou hast taken a friend for an enemy? The foul fiend, Flibbertigibbet
leads me over four-inched bridges to course my own shadow for a
traitor...."

"Yet, nervous, tremulous as he seemed," writes Talfourd, 'so slight of
frame that he looked only fit for the most placid fortune, when the
dismal emergencies which chequered his life arose, he acted with as
much promptitude and vigour as if he were strung with Herculean
sinews.' 'Such fortitude in his manners, and such a ravage of
suffering in his countenance did he display,' said Coleridge, 'as went
to the hearts of his friends,' It was rather by the violence of the
reaction that a keen observer might have estimated the extent of these
sufferings; by that 'escape from the pressure of agony, into a
fantastic,' sometimes almost a demoniac 'mirth which made Lamb a
problem to strangers while it endeared him thousandfold to those who
really knew him.'

    The child of impulse ever to appear
    And yet through duty's path strictly to steer,
    O Lamb, thou art a mystery to me!
    Thou art so prudent, and so mad with wildness--

wrote Charles Lloyd.

Sweet and strong must have been the nature upon which the crush of so
severe a destiny produced no soreness, no bitterness, no violence but
only the rebound of a wild fantastic gaiety. In his writings not only
is there an entire absence of the morbid, the querulous, I can find
but one expression that breathes of what his sombre experiences were.
It is in that most masterly of all his criticisms (unless it be the
one on _Lear_), the _Genius and Character of Hogarth_, where, in the
sublime description of the Bedlam scene in the _Rake's Progress_, he
tells of "the frightful, obstinate laugh of madness." In one apparent
way only did the calamity which overshadowed his life, exert an
influence on his genius. It turned him, as Talfourd finely suggests,
"to seek a kindred interest in the sterner stuff of old tragedy--to
catastrophes more fearful even than his own--to the aspects of pale
passion, to shapes of heroic daring and more heroic suffering, to the
agonising contests of opposing affections and the victories of the
soul over calamity and death which the old English drama discloses,
and in the contemplation of which he saw his own suffering nature at
once mirrored and exalted." In short, no man ever stood more nobly the
test of life-long affliction: 'a deep distress had harmonised his
soul.'

Only on one point did the stress of his difficult lot find him
vulnerable, one flaw bring to light--a tendency to counteract his
depression and take the edge off his poignant anxieties by a too free
use of stimulants. The manners of his day, the custom of producing
wine and strong drinks on every possible occasion, bore hard on such a
craving and fostered a man's weakness. But Lamb maintained to the end
a good standing fight with the enemy and, if not wholly victorious,
still less was he wholly defeated. So much on account of certain home
anxieties to which Mary's letters to Sarah Stoddart make undisguised
allusion.



CHAPTER VI.

Visit to Coleridge at Greta Hall.--Wordsworth and his Sister in
London.--Letters to Miss Stoddart.--Coleridge goes to Malta.--Letter
to Dorothy Wordsworth on the Death of her Brother John.

1802-1805.--Æt. 38-41.


In the summer of 1802, when holiday time came round Charles was seized
with 'a strong desire of visiting remote regions;' and after some
whimsical deliberations his final resolve was to go with Mary to see
Coleridge at the Lakes.

"I set out with Mary to Keswick," he tells Manning, "without giving
any notice to Coleridge [who was now living at Greta Hall, soon to
become Southey's home for the rest of his life] for my time being
precious did not admit of it. We got in in the evening, travelling in
a post-chaise from Penrith, in the midst of a gorgeous sunset which
transmuted the mountains into all colours, purple, &c. We thought we
had got into fairy-land; but that went off (and it never came again
while we stayed we had no more fine sunsets) and we entered
Coleridge's comfortable study just in the dusk when the mountains were
all dark with clouds upon their heads. Such an impression I never
received from objects of sight before nor do I suppose I ever can
again. Glorious creatures, fine old fellows, Skiddaw, &c., I shall
never forget ye, how ye lay about that night like an intrenchment;
gone to bed, as it seemed, for the night but promising that ye were to
be seen in the morning. Coleridge had got a blazing fire in his study
which is a large antique, ill-shaped room with an old-fashioned organ,
never played upon, big enough for a church; shelves of scattered
folios, an Æolian harp and an old sofa half-bed, &c. And all looking
out upon the last fading view of Skiddaw and his broad-breasted
brethren. What a night!"

The Poet had now a second son, or rather a third (for the second had
died in infancy), Derwent, a fine bright, fair, broad-chested little
fellow not quite two years old, with whom Charles and Mary were
delighted. A merry sprite he was, in a yellow frock which obtained for
him the nick-name of Stumpy Canary, who loved to race from kitchen to
parlour and from parlour to kitchen just putting in his head at the
door with roguish smile to catch notice, then off again, shaking his
little sides with laughter. He fairly won their hearts and long after
figures in their letters as Pi-pos Pot-pos, his own way of pronouncing
striped opossum and spotted opossum, which he would point out
triumphantly in his picture book. Hartley, now six, was a prematurely
grave and thoughtful child who had already, as a curious anecdote told
by Crabb Robinson shows, begun to take surprising plunges into "the
metaphysic well without a bottom"; for once when asked something about
himself and called by name he said, "Which Hartley?" "Why, is there
more than one Hartley?" "Yes, there's a deal of Hartleys; there's
Picture Hartley [Hazlitt had painted his portrait] and Shadow Hartley
and there's Echo Hartley and there's Catch-me-fast Hartley," seizing
his own arm with the other hand; thereby showing, said his father,
that "he had begun to reflect on what Kant calls the great and
inexplicable mystery that man should be both his own subject and
object and that these should yet be one!"

Three delightful weeks they stayed. "So we have seen," continues Lamb
to Manning, "Keswick, Grasmere, Ambleside, Ulswater (where the
Clarksons live), and a place at the other end of Ulswater; I forget
the name [Patterdale] to which we travelled on a very sultry day, over
the middle of Helvellyn. We have clambered up to the top of Skiddaw
and I have waded up the bed of Lodore. Mary was excessively tired when
she got about half-way up Skiddaw but we came to a cold rill (than
which nothing can be imagined more cold, running over cold stones)
and, with the reinforcement of a draught of cold water, she surmounted
it most manfully. Oh its fine black head! and the bleak air atop of it
with the prospect of mountains all about and about making you giddy;
and then Scotland afar off and the border countries so famous in song
and ballad! It was a day that will stand out like a mountain, I am
sure, in my life."

Wordsworth was away at Calais but the Lambs stayed a day or so in his
cottage with the Clarksons (he of slavery abolition fame and she "one
of the friendliest, comfortablest women we know who made the little
stay one of the pleasantest times we ever passed"); saw Lloyd again
but remained distrustful of him on account of the seeds of bitterness
he had once sown between the friends, and finally got home very
pleasantly: Mary a good deal fatigued, finding the difference between
going to a place and coming from it, but not otherwise the worse.
"Lloyd has written me a fine letter of friendship," says Lamb, soon
after his return, "all about himself and Sophia and love and cant
which I have not answered. I have not given up the idea of writing to
him but it will be done very plainly and sincerely, without acrimony."

They found the Wordsworths (the poet and his sister, that is, for he
was not yet married though just about to be) lodging near their own
quarters, saw much of them, pioneered them through Bartlemy Fair; and
now, on Mary's part, was formed that intimacy with Dorothy which led
to her being their constant visitor and sometimes their house-guest
when she was in London.

As great a contrast in most respects, to Dorothy Wordsworth as the
whole range of womankind could have furnished was Mary's other friend
and correspondent, Sarah Stoddart, afterwards Mrs. Hazlitt. Sarah was
the only daughter of a retired lieutenant in the navy, a Scotchman who
had settled down on a little property at Winterslow near Salisbury
which she ultimately inherited. She was a young lady with a
business-like determination to marry and with many suitors; but, far
from following the old injunction to be off with the old love before
being on with the new, she always cautiously kept the old love
dangling till she was quite sure the new was the more eligible. Mary's
letters to her have happily been preserved and published by Miss
Stoddart's grandson, Mr. W. Carew Hazlitt, in his _Mary and Charles
Lamb_. The first, dated September 21, 1803, was written after Miss
Stoddart had been staying with the Lambs and when a decision had been
arrived at that she should accompany her only brother, Dr. Stoddart,
to Malta where he had just been appointed King's Advocate. Mary's
spelling and here and there even a little slip in the matter of
grammar have been retained as seeming part of the individuality of the
letters:--

"I returned from my visit yesterday and was very much pleased to find
your letter; for I have been very anxious to hear how you are going
on. I could hardly help expecting to see you when I came in; yet
though I should have rejoiced to have seen your merry face again, I
believe it was better as it was, upon the whole; and all things
considered, it is certainly better you should go to Malta. The terms
you are upon with your lover [a Mr. Turner to whom she was engaged]
does (as you say it will) appear wondrous strange to me; however, as I
cannot enter into your feelings I certainly can have nothing to say to
it, only that I sincerely wish you happy in your own way however odd
that way may appear to me to be. I would begin now to advise you to
drop all correspondence with William [not William Hazlitt but an
earlier admirer]; but, as I said before, as I cannot enter into your
feelings and views of things, _your ways not being my ways_, why
should I tell you what I would do in your situation? So, child, take
thy own ways and God prosper thee in them!

"One thing my advising spirit must say; use as little secresy as
possible, make a friend of your sister-in-law; you know I was not
struck with her at first sight but, upon your account, I have watched
and marked her very attentively and while she was eating a bit of cold
mutton in our kitchen we had a serious conversation. From the
frankness of her manner I am convinced she is a person I could make a
friend of; why should not you? We talked freely about you; she seems
to have a just notion of your character and will be fond of you if you
will let her."

After instancing the misunderstandings between her own mother and aunt
already quoted, Mary continues:--

"My aunt and my mother were wholly unlike you and your sister yet, in
some degree, theirs is the secret history, I believe, of all
sisters-in-law and you will smile when I tell you I think myself the
only woman in the world who could live with a brother's wife and make
a real friend of her, partly from early observation of the unhappy
example I have just given you and partly from a knack I know I have of
looking into people's real characters and never expecting them to act
out of it--never expecting another to do as I would in the same case.
When you leave your mother and say if you never see her again you
shall feel no remorse and when you make a _jewish_ bargain with your
_lover_, all this gives me no offence because it is your nature and
your temper and I do not expect or want you to be otherwise than you
are. I love you for the good that is in you and look for no change.

"_But_ certainly you ought to struggle with the evil that does most
easily beset you--a total want of politeness in behaviour, I would say
modesty of behaviour but that I should not convey to you my idea of
the word modesty; for I certainly do not mean that you want _real
modesty_ and what is usually called false or mock modesty I certainly
do not wish you to possess; yet I trust you know what I mean well
enough. _Secresy_, though you appear all frankness, is certainly a
grand failing of yours; it is likewise your _brother's_ and,
therefore, a family failing. By secresy I mean you both want the habit
of telling each other, at the moment, everything that happens, where
you go and what you do--that free communication of letters and
opinions just as they arrive as Charles and I do--and which is, after
all, the only ground-work of friendship. Your brother, I will answer
for it, will never tell his wife or his sister all that is in his
mind; he will receive letters and not [mention it]. This is a fault
Mrs. Stoddart can never [tell him of] but she can and will feel it
though on the whole and in every other respect she is happy with him.
Begin, for God's sake, at the first and tell her everything that
passes. At first she may hear you with indifference, but in time this
will gain her affection and confidence; show her all your letters (no
matter if she does not show hers). It is a pleasant thing for a friend
to put into one's hand a letter just fresh from the post. I would even
say, begin with showing her this but that it is freely written and
loosely and some apology ought to be made for it which I know not how
to make, for I must write freely or not at all.

"If you do this she will tell your brother, you will say; and what
then, quotha? It will beget a freer communication amongst you which is
a thing devoutly to be wished.

"God bless you and grant you may preserve your integrity and remain
unmarried and penniless, and make William a good and a happy wife."

No wonder Mary's friendships were so stable and so various with this
knack of hers of looking into another's real character and never
expecting him or her to act out of it or to do as she would in the
same case; taking no offence, looking for no change and asking for no
other explanation than that it was her friend's nature. It is an
epitome of social wisdom and of generous sentiment.

Coleridge had long been in bad health and worse spirits; and what he had
first ignorantly used as a remedy was now become his tyrant--opium; for
a time the curse of his life and the blight of his splendid powers.
Sometimes--

    Adown Lethean streams his spirit drifted;

sometimes he was stranded "in a howling wilderness of ghastly dreams"
waking and sleeping, followed by deadly languors which opium caused
and cured and caused again, driving him round in an accursed circle.
He came up to London at the beginning of 1804, was much with the Lambs
if not actually their guest, and finally decided to try change and
join his friend Dr. Stoddart in Malta where he landed April 18th.
Mary, full of earnest and affectionate solicitude, sent a letter by
him to Sarah Stoddart who had already arrived, bespeaking a warm and
indulgent welcome for her suffering friend:--

"I will just write a few hasty lines to say Coleridge is setting off
sooner than we expected and I every moment expect him to call in one
of his great hurrys for this. We rejoiced with exceeding great joy to
hear of your safe arrival. I hope your brother will return home in a
few years a very rich man. Seventy pounds in one fortnight is a pretty
beginning.

"I envy your brother the pleasure of seeing Coleridge drop in
unexpectedly upon him; we talk--but it is but wild and idle talk--of
following him. He is to get my brother some snug little place of a
thousand a year and we are to leave all and come and live among ye. What
a pretty dream.

"Coleridge is very ill. I dread the thoughts of his long voyage. Write
as soon as he arrives whether _he_ does or not, and tell me how he
is....

"He has got letters of recommendation to Governor Ball and God knows
who; and he will talk and talk and be universally admired. But I wish
to write for him a _letter of recommendation_ to Mrs. Stoddart and to
yourself to take upon ye, on his first arrival, to be kind
affectionate nurses; and mind, now, that you perform this duty
faithfully and write me a good account of yourself. Behave to him as
you would to me or to Charles if we came sick and unhappy to you.

"I have no news to send you; Coleridge will tell you how we are going
on. Charles has lost the newspaper [an engagement on the _Morning
Post_, which Coleridge had procured for him] but what we dreaded as an
evil has proved a great blessing, for we have both strangely recovered
our health and spirits since this has happened; and I hope, when I
write next, I shall be able to tell you Charles has begun something
which will produce a little money for it is not well to be _very poor_
which we certainly are at this present writing.

"I sit writing here and thinking almost you will see it to-morrow; and
what a long, long time it will be ere you receive this. When I saw
your letter I fancy'd you were even just then in the first bustle of a
new reception, every moment seeing new faces and staring at new
objects when, at that time, everything had become familiar to you; and
the strangers, your new dancing partners, had perhaps become gossiping
fireside friends. You tell me of your gay, splendid doings; tell me,
likewise, what manner of home-life you lead. Is a quiet evening in a
Maltese drawing-room as pleasant as those we have passed in Mitre
Court and Bell Yard? Tell me all about it, everything pleasant and
everything unpleasant that befalls you.

"I want you to say a great deal about yourself. _Are you happy? and do
you not repent going out?_ I wish I could see you for one hour only.

"Remember me affectionately to your sister and brother, and tell me
when you write if Mrs. Stoddart likes Malta and how the climate agrees
with her and with thee.

"We heard you were taken prisoners, and for several days believed the
tale.

"How did the pearls and the fine court finery bear the fatigues of the
voyage and how often have they been worn and admired?

"Rickman wants to know if you are going to be married yet. Satisfy him
in that little particular when you write.

"The Fenwicks send their love and Mrs. Reynolds her love and the little
old lady her best respects.

"Mrs. Jeffries, who I see now and then, talks of you with tears in her
eyes and when she heard you was taken prisoner, Lord! how frightened she
was. She has heard, she tells me, that Mr. Stoddart is to have a pension
of two thousand a year whenever he chooses to return to England.

"God bless you and send you all manner of comforts and happinesses."

Mrs. Reynolds was another 'little old lady,' a familiar figure at the
Lambs' table. She had once been Charles's schoolmistress; had made an
unfortunate marriage and would have gone under in the social stream but
for his kindly hand. Out of their slender means he allowed her thirty
pounds a year. She tickled Hood's fancy when he too became a frequent
guest there; and he has described her as formal, fair and flaxen-wigged
like an elderly wax doll, speaking as if by an artificial apparatus,
through some defect in the palate and with a slight limp and a twist
occasioned by running too precipitately down Greenwich hill in her
youth! She remembered Goldsmith who had once lent her his _Deserted
Village_.

In those days of universal warfare and privateering it was an anxious
matter to have a friend tossing in the Bay of Biscay, gales and storms
apart; so that tidings from Sarah had been eagerly watched for:--

"Your letter," writes Mary, "which contained the news of Coleridge's
arrival was a most welcome one; for we had begun to entertain very
unpleasant apprehensions for his safety; and your kind reception of
the forlorn wanderer gave me the greatest pleasure and I thank you for
it in my own and my brother's name. I shall depend upon you for
hearing of his welfare for he does not write himself; but as long as
we know he is safe and in such kind friends' hands we do not mind.
Your letters, my dear Sarah, are to me very, very precious ones. They
are the kindest, best, most natural ones I ever received. The one
containing the news of the arrival of Coleridge is, perhaps, the best
I ever saw; and your old friend Charles is of my opinion. We sent it
off to Mrs. Coleridge and the Wordsworths--as well because we thought
it our duty to give them the first notice we had of our dear friend's
safety as that we were proud of showing our Sarah's pretty letter.

"The letters we received a few days after from you and your brother
were far less welcome ones. I rejoiced to hear your sister is well but
I grieved for the loss of the dear baby and I am sorry to find your
brother is not so successful as he expected to be; and yet I am almost
tempted to wish his ill-fortune may send him over to us again. He has
a friend, I understand, who is now at the head of the Admiralty; why
may he not return and make a fortune here?

"I cannot condole with you very sincerely upon your little failure in
the fortune-making way. If you regret it, so do I. But I hope to see
you a comfortable English wife; and the forsaken, forgotten William,
of English-partridge memory I have still a hankering after. However, I
thank you for your frank communication and I beg you will continue it
in future; and if I do not agree with a good grace to your having a
Maltese husband, I will wish you happy, provided you make it a part of
your marriage articles that your husband shall allow you to come over
sea and make me one visit; else may neglect and overlookedness be your
portion while you stay there.

"I would condole with you when the misfortune has befallen your poor
leg; but such is the blessed distance we are at from each other that I
hope, before you receive this, you have forgot it ever happened.

"Our compliments to the high ton at the Maltese court. Your brother is
so profuse of them to me that, being, as you know, so unused to them,
they perplex me sadly; in future I beg they may be discontinued. They
always remind me of the free, and I believe very improper letter I
wrote to you while you were at the Isle of Wight [that already given
advising frankness]. The more kindly you and your brother and sister
took the impertinent advice contained in it the more certain I feel
that it was unnecessary and, therefore, highly improper. Do not let
your brother compliment me into the memory of it again.

"My brother has had a letter from your mother which has distressed him
sadly--about the postage of some letters being paid by my brother.
Your silly brother, it seems, has informed your mother (I did not
think your brother could have been so silly) that Charles had grumbled
at paying the said postage. The fact was just at that time we were
very poor having lost the _Morning Post_ and we were beginning to
practise a strict economy. My brother, who never makes up his mind
whether he will be a miser or a spendthrift, is at all times a strange
mixture of both" [rigid in those small economies which enabled him to
be not only just but generous on small means]. "Of this failing the
even economy of your correct brother's temper makes him an ill judge.
The miserly part of Charles, at that time smarting under his recent
loss, then happened to reign triumphant; and he would not write or let
me write so often as he wished because the postage cost two and
fourpence. Then came two or three of your poor mother's letters nearly
together; and the two and fourpences he wished but grudged to pay for
his own he was forced to pay for hers. In this dismal distress he
applied to Fenwick to get his friend Motley to send them free from
Portsmouth. This Mr. Fenwick could have done for half a word's
speaking; but this he did not do! Then Charles foolishly and
unthinkingly complained to your brother in a half-serious, half-joking
way; and your brother has wickedly and with malice aforethought told
your mother. O fye upon him! what will your mother think of us?

"I, too, feel my share of blame in this vexatious business; for I saw
the unlucky paragraph in my brother's letter; and I had a kind of
foreboding that it would come to your mother's ears--although I had a
higher idea of your brother's good sense than I find he deserved. By
entreaties and prayer I might have prevailed on my brother to say
nothing about it. But I make a point of conscience never to interfere
or cross my brother in the humour he happens to be in. It always
appears to me to be a vexatious kind of tyranny that women have no
business to exercise over men, which, merely because _they having a
better judgment_, they have power to do. Let _men_ alone and at last
we find they come round to the right way which _we_, by a kind of
intuition, perceive at once. But better, far better that we should let
them often do wrong than that they should have the torment of a
monitor always at their elbows.

"Charles is sadly fretted now, I know, at what to say to your mother.
I have made this long preamble about it to induce you, if possible, to
re-instate us in your mother's good graces. Say to her it was a jest
misunderstood; tell her Charles Lamb is not the shabby fellow she and
her son took him for but that he is, now and then, a trifle whimsical
or so. I do not ask your brother to do this for I am offended with him
for the mischief he has made.

"I feel that I have too lightly passed over the interesting account
you sent me of your late disappointment. It was not because I did not
feel and completely enter into the affair with you. You surprise and
please me with the frank and generous way in which you deal with your
lovers, taking a refusal from their so prudential hearts with a better
grace and more good humour than other women accept a suitor's service.
Continue this open artless conduct and I trust you will at last find
some man who has sense enough to know you are well worth risking a
peaceable life of poverty for. I shall yet live to see you a poor but
happy English wife.

"Remember me most affectionately to Coleridge, and I thank you again
and again for all your kindness to him. To dear Mrs. Stoddart and your
brother I beg my best love; and to you all I wish health and happiness
and a _soon_ return to old England.

"I have sent to Mr. Burrel's for your kind present, but unfortunately
he is not in town. I am impatient to see my fine silk handkerchiefs
and I thank you for them not as a present, for I do not love presents,
but as a remembrance of your old friend. Farewell.

             "I am, my best Sarah,
                        "Your most affectionate Friend,
                                                    "MARY LAMB."

"Good wishes and all proper remembrances from old nurse, Mrs. Jeffries,
Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Rickman, &c. Long live Queen Hoop-oop-oop-oo and all
the old merry phantoms."

Sarah Stoddart returned to England before the year was out. Coleridge
remained in Malta, filling temporarily, at the request of Sir
Alexander Ball, governor of the island, the post of public secretary
till the end of September, 1805 when his friends lost track of him
altogether for nearly a year; during which he visited Paris, wandered
through Italy, Sicily, Cairo, and saw Vesuvius in December when "the
air was so consolidated with a massy cloud-curtain that it appeared
like a mountain in basso-relievo in an interminable wall of some
pantheon"; and after narrowly escaping imprisonment at the hands of
Napoleon, suddenly reappeared amongst his friends in the autumn of
1806.

To the Wordsworths, brother and sister and young wife, for the three
were one in heart, this year of 1805 had been one of overwhelming
sorrow. Their brother John, the brave and able ship's captain who yet
loved "all quiet things" as dearly as William "although he loved more
silently," and was wont to carry that beloved brother's poems to sea
and con them to the music of the winds and waves; whose cherished
scheme, so near fulfilment, it was to realise enough to settle in a
cottage at Grasmere and devote his earnings to the poet's use so that
he might pursue his way unharassed by a thought of money,--this
brother was shipwrecked on the Bill of Portland just as he was
starting, and whilst the ship was yet in the pilot's hands, on what
was to have been, in how different a sense, his last voyage.

    Six weeks beneath the moving sea
    He lay in slumber quietly;
    Unforced by wind or wave
    To quit the ship for which he died
    (All claims of duty satisfied);
    And there they found him at her side,
    And bore him to the grave.

After waiting awhile in silence before a grief of such magnitude Mary
wrote to Dorothy Wordsworth. She speaks as one acquainted with a
life-long sorrow yet who has learned to find its companionship not
bitter:--

"I thank you, my kind friend, for your most comfortable letter; till I
saw your own handwriting I could not persuade myself that I should do
well to write to you though I have often attempted it; but I always
left off dissatisfied with what I had written, and feeling that I was
doing an improper thing to intrude upon your sorrow. I wished to tell
you that you would one day feel the kind of peaceful state of mind and
sweet memory of the dead which you so happily describe as now almost
begun; but I felt that it was improper and most grating to the
feelings of the afflicted to say to them that the memory of their
affliction would in time become a constant part, not only of their
dream, but of their most wakeful sense of happiness. That you would
see every object with and through your lost brother and that that
would at last become a real and everlasting source of comfort to you I
felt and well knew from my own experience in sorrow; but till you
yourself began to feel this I didn't dare tell you so; but I send you
some poor lines which I wrote under this conviction of mind and before
I heard Coleridge was returning home. I will transcribe them now,
before I finish my letter, lest a false shame prevent me then for I
know they are much worse than they ought to be, written as they were
with strong feeling and on such a subject; every line seems to me to
be borrowed: but I had no better way of expressing my thoughts and I
never have the power of altering or amending anything I have once laid
aside with dissatisfaction:--

    Why is he wandering on the sea?
    Coleridge should now with Wordsworth be.
    By slow degrees he'd steal away
    Their woe and gently bring a ray
    (So happily he'd time relief)
    Of comfort from their very grief.
    He'd tell them that their brother dead,
    When years have passed o'er their head,
    Will be remembered with such holy,
    True, and perfect melancholy,
    That ever this lost brother John
    Will be their heart's companion.
    His voice they'll always hear,
    His face they'll always see:
    There's nought in life so sweet
    As such a memory.

Thus for a moment are we permitted to see that, next to love for her
brother, the memory of her dead mother and friendship for Coleridge
were the deep and sacred influences of Mary's life.



CHAPTER VII.

Mary in the Asylum again.--Lamb's Letter with a Poem of hers.--Her slow
Recovery.--Letters to Sarah Stoddart.--The _Tales from Shakespeare_
begun.--Hazlitt's Portrait of Lamb.--Sarah's Lovers.--The Farce of
_Mr. H._

1805-6.--Æt. 41-2.


The letter to Miss Wordsworth called forth a response; but, alas! Mary
was in sad exile when it arrived and Charles, with a heart full of
grief, wrote for her:--

"14th June 1805.

"Your long kind letter has not been thrown away (for it has given me
great pleasure to find you are all resuming your old occupations and
are better); but poor Mary, to whom it is addressed, cannot yet relish
it. She has been attacked by one of her severe illnesses and is at
present _from home_. Last Monday week was the day she left me and I
hope I may calculate upon having her again in a month or little more.
I am rather afraid late hours have, in this case, contributed to her
indisposition.... I have every reason to suppose that this illness,
like all the former ones, will be but temporary; but I cannot always
feel so. Meantime she is dead to me, and I miss a prop. All my
strength is gone, and I am like a fool, bereft of her co-operation. I
dare not think lest I should think wrong, so used am I to look up to
her in the least as in the biggest perplexity. To say all that I know
of her would be more than I think anybody could believe or even
understand; and when I hope to have her well again with me it would be
sinning against her feelings to go about to praise her, for I can
conceal nothing that I do from her. She is older and wiser and better
than I, and all my wretched imperfections I cover to myself by
resolutely thinking on her goodness. She would share life and death,
heaven and hell with me. She lives but for me; and I know I have been
wasting and teasing her life for five years past incessantly with my
cursed drinking and ways of going on. But even in this upbraiding of
myself I am offending against her for I know that she has clung to me
for better for worse; and if the balance has been against her hitherto
it was a noble trade....

"I cannot resist transcribing three or four lines which poor Mary made
upon a picture (a 'Holy Family') which we saw at an auction only one
week before she left home. She was then beginning to show signs of
ill-boding. They are sweet lines, and upon a sweet picture; but I send
them only as the last memorial of her:--

    VIRGIN AND CHILD, L. da Vinci.

    Maternal lady, with thy virgin grace,
    Heaven-born thy Jesus seemeth sure,
        And thou a virgin pure.
    Lady most perfect, when thy angel face
    Men look upon, they wish to be
    A Catholic, Madonna fair, to worship thee.

"You had her lines about the 'Lady Blanch.' You have not had some
which she wrote upon a copy of a girl from Titian which I had hung up
where that print of Blanch and the Abbess (as she beautifully
interpreted two female figures from L. da Vinci) had hung in our room.
'Tis light and pretty:--

    Who art thou, fair one, who usurp'st the place
    Of Blanch, the lady of the matchless grace?
    Come, fair and pretty tell to me
    Who in thy life-time thou might'st be?
    Thou pretty art and fair,
    But with the Lady Blanch thou never must compare.
    No need for Blanch her history to tell,
    Whoever saw her face, they there did read it well;
    But when I look on thee, I only know
    There lived a pretty maid some hundred years ago.

"This is a little unfair, to tell so much about ourselves and to
advert so little to your letter, so full of comfortable tidings of you
all. But my own cares press pretty close upon me and you can make
allowances. That you may go on gathering strength and peace is my next
wish to Mary's recovery.

"I had almost forgot your repeated invitation. Supposing that Mary
will be well and able there is another _ability_ which you may guess
at which I cannot promise myself. In prudence we ought not to come.
This illness will make it still more prudential to wait. It is not a
balance of this way of spending our money against another way but an
absolute question of whether we shall stop now or go on wasting away
the little we have got beforehand which my wise conduct has already
encroached upon one half."

Pity it is that the little poem on the 'Lady Blanch' should have
perished, as I fear it has, if it contained as 'sweet lines' as the
foregoing.

Little more than a month after this (July 27), Charles writes cheerfully
to Manning:--

"My old housekeeper has shown signs of convalescence and will shortly
resume the power of the keys, so I shan't be cheated of my tea and
liquors. Wind in the West which promotes tranquillity. Have leisure
now to anticipate seeing thee again. Have been taking leave [it was a
very short leave] of tobacco in a rhyming address. Had thought _that
vein_ had long since closed up. Find I can rhyme and reason too. Think
of studying mathematics to restrain the fire of my genius which George
Dyer recommends. Have frequent bleedings at the nose which shows
plethoric. Maybe shall try the sea myself, that great scene of
wonders. Got incredibly sober and regular; shave oftener and hum a
tune to signify cheerfulness and gallantry.

"Suddenly disposed to sleep, having taken a quart of pease with bacon
and stout. Will not refuse nature who has done such things for me!

"Nurse! don't call me unless Mr. Manning comes.--What! the gentleman
in spectacles?--Yes.

                                               _Dormit_. C. L.

"Saturday, Hot noon."

But although Mary was sufficiently recovered to return home at the end
of the summer she continued much shaken by the severity of this attack
and so also did her brother all through the autumn; as the following
letters to Sarah Stoddart and still more one already quoted (pp. 75-6)
show:--

"September 1805.

"Certainly you are the best letter-writer (besides writing the best
hand) in the world. I have just been reading over again your two long
letters and I perceive they make me very envious. I have taken a bran
new pen and put on my _spectacles_ and am peering with all my might to
see the lines in the paper which the sight of your even lines had
well-nigh tempted me to rule; and I have moreover taken two pinches of
snuff extraordinary to clear my head which feels more cloudy than
common this fine cheerful morning.

"All I can gather from your clear and, I have no doubt, faithful
history of Maltese politics is that the good doctor, though a firm
friend, an excellent fancier of brooches, a good husband, an upright
advocate and, in short, all that they say upon tombstones (for I do
not recollect that they celebrate any fraternal virtues there)--yet is
he but a _moody_ brother; that your sister-in-law is pretty much like
what all sisters-in-law have been since the first happy invention of
the marriage state; that friend Coleridge has undergone no alteration
by crossing the Atlantic [geography was evidently no part of Captain
Starkey's curriculum] for his friendliness to you as well as the
oddities you mention are just what one ought to look for from him; and
that you, my dear Sarah, have proved yourself just as unfit to
flourish in a little proud garrison town as I did shrewdly suspect you
were before you went there.

"If I possibly can I will prevail upon Charles to write to your brother
by the conveyance you mention; but he is so unwell I almost fear the
fortnight will slip away before I can get him in the right vein. Indeed,
it has been sad and heavy times with us lately. When I am pretty well
his low spirits throw me back again; and when he begins to get a little
cheerful then I do the same kind office for him. I heartily wish for the
arrival of Coleridge; a few such evenings as we have sometimes passed
with him would wind us up and set us going again.

"Do not say anything when you write of our low spirits; it will vex
Charles. You would laugh or you would cry, perhaps both, to see us sit
together looking at each other with long and rueful faces and saying
'How do you do?' and 'How do you do?' and then we fall a crying and say
we will be better on the morrow. He says we are like tooth-ache and his
friend gum-boil which, though a kind of ease, is but an uneasy kind of
ease, a comfort of rather an uncomfortable sort.

"I rejoice to hear of your mother's amendment; when you can leave her
with any satisfaction to yourself--which, as her sister, I think I
understand by your letter, is with her, I hope you may soon be able to
do--let me know upon what plan you mean to come to town. Your brother
proposed your being six months in town and six with your mother; but
he did not then know of your poor mother's illness. By his desire I
enquired for a respectable family for you to board with and from
Captain Burney I heard of one I thought would suit you at that time.
He particularly desires I would not think of your being with us, not
thinking, I conjecture, the house of a single man _respectable_
enough. Your brother gave me most unlimited orders to domineer over
you, to be the inspector of all your actions and to direct and govern
you with a stern voice and a high hand; to be, in short, a very elder
brother over you. Does the hearing of this, my meek pupil, make you
long to come to London? I am making all the proper enquiries, against
the time, of the newest and most approved modes (being myself mainly
ignorant in these points) of etiquette and nicely correct maidenly
manners.

"But to speak seriously. I mean, when we meet, that we will lay our
heads together and consult and contrive the best way of making the
best girl in the world the fine lady her brother wishes to see her and
believe me, Sarah, it is not so difficult a matter as one is apt to
imagine. I have observed many a demure lady who passes muster
admirably well who, I think, we could easily learn to imitate in a
week or two. We will talk of these things when we meet. In the
meantime I give you free leave to be happy and merry at Salisbury in
any way you can. Has the partridge season opened any communication
between you and William? As I allow you to be imprudent till I see
you, I shall expect to hear you have invited him to taste his own
birds. Have you scratched him out of your will yet? Rickman is married
and that is all the news I have to send you. I seem, upon looking over
my letter again, to have written too lightly of your distresses at
Malta; but, however I may have written, believe me I enter very
feelingly into all your troubles. I love you and I love your brother;
and between you, both of whom, I think, have been to blame, I know not
what to say--only this I say,--try to think as little as possible of
past miscarriages; it was perhaps so ordered by Providence that you
might return home to be a comfort to your mother."

No long holiday trip was to be ventured on while Mary continued thus
shaken and depressed. "We have been two tiny excursions this summer,
for three or four days each, to a place near Harrow and to Egham where
Cooper's Hill is and that is the total history of our rustication this
year", Charles tells Wordsworth. In October Mary gives a slightly
better account of herself:--

"I have made many attempts at writing to you, but it has always
brought your troubles and my own so strongly into my mind, that I have
been obliged to leave off and make Charles write for me. I am resolved
now, however few lines I write, this shall go; for I know, my kind
friend, you will like once more to see my own handwriting.

"I have been for these few days past in rather better spirits, so that
I begin almost to feel myself once more a living creature and to hope
for happier times; and in that hope I include the prospect of once
more seeing my dear Sarah in peace and comfort in our old garret. How
did I wish for your presence to cheer my drooping heart when I
returned home from banishment.

"Is your being with or near your poor dear mother necessary to her
comfort? Does she take any notice of you? And is there any prospect of
her recovery? How I grieve for her, for you....

"I went to the Admiralty, about your mother's pension; from thence I
was directed to an office in Lincoln's Inn.... They informed me it
could not be paid to any person but Mr. Wray without a letter of
attorney.... Do not let us neglect this business and make use of me in
any way you can.

"I have much to thank you and your kind brother for. I kept the dark
silk, as you may suppose. You have made me very fine; the brooch is
very beautiful. Mrs. Jeffries wept for gratitude when she saw your
present; she desires all manner of thanks and good wishes. Your maid's
sister has gone to live a few miles from town. Charles, however, found
her out and gave her the handkerchief.

"I want to know if you have seen William and if there is any prospect
in future there. All you said in your letter from Portsmouth that
related to him was so burnt in the fumigating that we could only make
out that it was unfavourable but not the particulars; tell us again
how you go on or if you have seen him. I conceit affairs will somehow
be made up between you at last.

"I want to know how your brother goes on. Is he likely to make a very
good fortune and in how long a time? And how is he in the way of home
comforts--I mean is he very happy with Mrs. Stoddart? This was a
question I could not ask while you were there and perhaps is not a
fair one now; but I want to know how you all went on and, in short,
twenty little foolish questions that one ought, perhaps, rather to ask
when we meet than to write about. But do make me a little acquainted
with the inside of the good doctor's house and what passes therein.

"Was Coleridge often with you? or did your brother and Col. argue long
arguments till between the two great argue-ers there grew a little
coolness; or perchance the mighty friendship between Coleridge and
your Sovereign governor, Sir Alexander Ball, might create a kind of
jealousy; for we fancy something of a coolness did exist from the
little mention of C. ever made in your brother's letters.

"Write us, my good girl, a long gossiping letter answering all these
foolish questions--and tell me any silly thing you can recollect--any,
the least particular, will be interesting to us and we will never tell
tales out of school; but we used to wonder and wonder how you all went
on; and when you was coming home we said 'Now we shall hear all from
Sarah.'

"God bless you, my dear friend.... If you have sent Charles any
commissions he has not executed write me word--he says he has lost or
mislaid a letter desiring him to inquire about a wig. Write two
letters--one of business and pensions and one all about Sarah Stoddart
and Malta.

"We have got a picture of Charles; do you think your brother would
like to have it? If you do, can you put us in a way how to send it?"

Mary's interest in her friend and her friend's affairs is so hearty
one cannot choose but share it and would gladly see what "the best
letter-writer in the world" had to tell of Coleridge and Stoddart and
the long arguments and little jealousies; and whether 'William' had
continued to dangle on, spite of distance and discouragement; and even
to learn that the old lady received her pension and her wig in safety.
But curiosity must remain unsatisfied for none of Miss Stoddart's
letters have been preserved.

"The picture of Charles" was, we may feel pretty sure, one which
William Hazlitt painted this year of Lamb 'in the costume of a
Venetian senator.' It is, on all accounts, a peculiarly interesting
portrait. Lamb was just thirty; and it gives, on the whole, a striking
impression of the nobility and beauty of form and feature which
characterised his head and partly realises Proctor's description--"a
countenance so full of sensibility that it came upon you like a new
thought which you could not help dwelling upon afterwards"; though the
subtle lines which gave that wondrous sweetness of expression to the
mouth are not fully rendered. Compared with the drawing by Hancock,
done when Lamb was twenty-three, engraved in Cottle's _Early
Recollections of Coleridge_, each may be said to corroborate the truth
of the other, allowing for difference of age and aspect,--Hancock's
being in profile, Hazlitt's (of which there is a good lithograph in
Barry Cornwall's _Memoir_) nearly full face. The print from it
prefixed to Fitzgerald's _Lamb_ is almost unrecognisable. It was the
last time Hazlitt took brush in hand, his grandson tells us; and it
comes as a pleasant surprise--an indication that he was too modest in
estimating his own gifts as a painter; and that the freshness of
feeling and insight he displayed as an art critic were backed by some
capacity for good workmanship.

It was whilst this portrait was being painted that the acquaintance
between Lamb and Hazlitt ripened into an intimacy which, with one or
two brief interruptions, was to be fruitful, invigorating on both
sides and life-long. Hazlitt was at this time staying with his brother
John, a successful miniature-painter and a member of the Godwin circle
much frequented by the Lambs.

"It is not well to be very poor which we certainly are at this
present," Mary had lately written. This it was which spurred her on to
undertake her first literary venture, the _Tales from Shakespeare_.
The nature of the malady from which she suffered made continuous
mental exertion distressing and probably injurious; so that without
this spur she would never, we may be sure, have dug and planted her
little plot in the field of literature and made of it a sweet and
pleasant place for the young where they may play and be nourished,
regardless of time and change. The first hint of any such scheme
occurs in a letter to Sarah Stoddart dated April 22, 1806, written the
very day she had left the Lambs:--

"I have heard that Coleridge was lately going through Sicily to Rome
with a party; but that, being unwell, he returned back to Naples. We
think there is some mistake in this account and that his intended
journey to Rome was in his former jaunt to Naples. If you know that at
that time he had any such intention will you write instantly? for I do
not know whether I ought to write to Mrs. Coleridge or not.

"I am going to make a sort of promise to myself and to you that I will
write you kind of journal-like letters of the daily what-we-do
matters, as they occur. This day seems to me a kind of new era in our
time. It is not a birthday, nor a new year's day, nor a leave-off
smoking day; but it is about an hour after the time of leaving you,
our poor Phoenix, in the Salisbury stage and Charles has just left me
to go to his lodgings [a room to work in free from the distraction of
constant visitors just hired experimentally] and I am holding a
solitary consultation with myself as to how I shall employ myself.

"Writing plays, novels, poems and all manner of such like vapouring
and vapourish schemes are floating in my head which, at the same time,
aches with the thought of parting from you and is perplext at the idea
of I cannot tell what-about-notion that I have not made you half so
comfortable as I ought to have done and a melancholy sense of the dull
prospect you have before you on your return home. Then I think I will
make my new gown; and now I consider the white petticoat will be
better candle-light work; and then I look at the fire and think if the
irons was but down I would iron my gowns--you having put me out of
conceit of mangling.

"So much for an account of my own confused head; and now for yours.
Returning home from the inn we took that to pieces and canvassed you,
as you know is our usual custom. We agreed we should miss you sadly,
and that you had been what you yourself discovered, _not at all in our
way_; and although, if the postmaster should happen to open this, it
would appear to him to be no great compliment yet you, who enter so
warmly into the interior of our affairs, will understand and value it
as well as what we likewise asserted that since you have been with us
you have done but one foolish thing, _vide_ Pinckhorn (excuse my bad
Latin, if it should chance to mean exactly contrary to what I intend).
We praised you for the very friendly way in which you regarded all our
whimsies and, to use a phrase of Coleridge, _understood us_. We had,
in short, no drawback on our eulogy on your merit except lamenting the
want of respect you have to yourself, the want of a certain dignity of
action, you know what I mean, which--though it only broke out in the
acceptance of the old justice's book and was, as it were, smothered
and almost extinct while you were here--yet is it so native a feeling
in your mind that you will do whatever the present moment prompts you
to do, that I wish you would take that one slight offence seriously to
heart and make it a part of your daily consideration to drive this
unlucky propensity, root and branch, out of your character. Then,
mercy on us, what a perfect little gentlewoman you will be!!!

"You are not yet arrived at the first stage of your journey; yet have
I the sense of your absence so strong upon me that I was really
thinking what news I had to send you, and what had happened since you
had left us. Truly nothing, except that Martin Burney met us in
Lincoln's Inn Fields and borrowed fourpence, of the repayment of which
sum I will send you due notice.

"_Friday._--Last night I told Charles of your matrimonial overtures
from Mr. White and of the cause of that business being at a
_standstill_. Your generous conduct in acquainting Mr. White with the
vexatious affair at Malta highly pleased him. He entirely approves of
it. You would be quite comforted to hear what he said on the subject.

"He wishes you success; and when Coleridge comes will consult with him
about what is best to be done. But I charge you be most strictly
cautious how you proceed yourself. Do not give Mr. W. any reason to
think you indiscreet; let him return of his own accord and keep the
probability of his doing so full in your mind; so, I mean, as to
regulate your whole conduct by that expectation. Do not allow yourself
to see, or in any way renew your acquaintance with William nor do any
other silly thing of that kind; for you may depend upon it he will be
a kind of spy upon you and, if he observes nothing that he disapproves
of you will certainly hear of him again in time.

"Charles is gone to finish the farce [_Mr. H._] and I am to hear it
read this night. I am so uneasy between my hopes and fears of how I
shall like it that I do not know what I am doing. I need not tell you
so for before I send this I shall be able to tell you all about it. If
I think it will amuse you I will send you a copy. _The bed was very
cold last night._

"I have received your letter and am happy to hear that your mother has
been so well in your absence, which I wish had been prolonged a
little, for you have been wanted to copy out the Farce, in the writing
of which I made many an unlucky blunder.

"The said Farce I carried (after many consultations of who was the
most proper person to perform so important an office) to Wroughton,
the manager of Drury Lane. He was very civil to me; said it did not
depend upon himself, but that he would put it into the proprietor's
hands, and that we should certainly have an answer from them.

"I have been unable to finish this sheet before, for Charles has taken
a week's holliday from his lodging to rest himself after his labour,
and we have talked of nothing but the Farce night and day; but
yesterday I carried it to Wroughton, and since it has been out of the
way our minds have been a little easier. I wish you had been with us
to have given your opinion. I have half a mind to scribble another
copy and send it you. I like it very much, and cannot help having
great hopes of its success.

"I would say I was very sorry for the death of Mr. White's father, but
not knowing the good old gentleman, I cannot help being as well
satisfied that he is gone, for his son will feel rather lonely, and
so, perhaps, he may chance to visit again Winterslow. You so well
describe your brother's grave lecturing letter, that you make me
ashamed of part of mine. I would fain re-write it, leaving out my
'_sage advice_'; but if I begin another letter something may fall out
to prevent me from finishing it, and, therefore, skip over it as well
as you can; it shall be the last I ever send you.

"It is well enough when one is talking to a friend to hedge in an odd
word by way of counsel now and then; but there is something mighty
irksome in its staring upon one in a letter, where one ought only to
see kind words and friendly remembrances.

"I have heard a vague report from the Dawes (the pleasant-looking
young lady we called upon was Miss Dawe) that Coleridge returned back
to Naples; they are to make further inquiries and let me know the
particulars. We have seen little or nothing of Manning since you went.
Your friend George Burnett calls as usual for Charles _to point out
something for him_. I miss you sadly, and but for the fidget I have
been in about the Farce, I should have missed you still more. I am
sorry you cannot get your money; continue to tell us all your
perplexities, and do not mind being called Widow Blackacre.

"Say all in your mind about your _Lover_; now Charles knows of it, he
will be as anxious to hear as me. All the time we can spare from
talking of the characters and plot of the Farce, we talk of you. I
have got a fresh bottle of brandy to-day; if you were here you should
have a glass, _three parts brandy_, so you should. I bought a pound of
bacon to-day, not so good as yours. I wish the little caps were
finished. I am glad the medicines and the cordials bore the fatigue of
their journey so well. I promise you I will write often, and _not mind
the postage_. God bless you. Charles does _not_ send his love because
he is not here. _Write as often as ever you can._ Do not work too
hard."

There is a little anecdote of Sarah Stoddart, told by her grandson,
which helps to mitigate our astonishment at Mary's too hospitable
suggestion in regard to the brandy. Lieutenant Stoddart would
sometimes, while sipping his grog, say to his children, "John, will
you have some?" "No thank you, father." "Sarah, will you?" "Yes,
please, father." "Not," adds Mr. Hazlitt, "that she ever indulged to
excess; but she was that sort of woman." Very far, certainly, from
"the perfect little gentlewoman" Mary hoped one day to see her; but
friendly, not without brains, with a kindly heart, and her worst
qualities such, surely, as spread themselves freely on the surface,
but strike no deep or poisonous roots. "Do not mind being called Widow
Blackacre," says Mary, alluding to one of the characters in
Wycherley's _Plain Dealer_. It certainly was not gratifying to be
likened to that "perverse, bustling, masculine, pettifogging, and
litigious" lady, albeit Macaulay speaks of her as Wycherley's happiest
creation.

When Hazlitt returned to Wem, Lamb sent him his first letter full of
friendly gossip:--

"... We miss you, as we foretold we should. One or two things have
happened which are beneath the dignity of epistolary communication,
but which, seated about our fireside at night (the winter hands of
pork have begun), gesture and emphasis might have talked into some
importance. Something about Rickman's wife, for instance; how tall she
is, and that she visits pranked up like a Queen of the May with green
streamers; a good-natured woman though, which is as much as you can
expect from a friend's wife, whom you got acquainted with a bachelor.
Something, too, about Monkey [Louisa Martin], which can't so well be
written; how it set up for a fine lady, and thought it had got lovers
and was obliged to be convinced of its age from the parish register,
where it was proved to be only twelve, and an edict issued that it
should not give itself airs yet this four years; and how it got leave
to be called Miss by grace. These, and such like hows were in my head
to tell you, but who can write? Also how Manning is come to town in
spectacles, and studies physic; is melancholy, and seems to have
something in his head which he don't impart. Then, how I am going to
leave off smoking.... You disappoint me in passing over in absolute
silence the Blenheim Leonardo. Didn't you see it? Excuse a lover's
curiosity. I have seen no pictures of note since, except Mr. Dawe's
gallery. It is curious to see how differently two great men treat the
same subject, yet both excellent in their way. For instance, Milton
and Mr. Dawe. Mr. D. has chosen to illustrate the story of Samson
exactly in the point of view in which Milton has been most happy; the
interview between the Jewish hero, blind and captive, and Dalilah.
Milton has imagined his locks grown again, strong as horsehair or
porcupine's bristles; doubtless shaggy and black, as being hairs
'which of a nation armed contained the strength.' I don't remember he
_says_ black; but could Milton imagine them to be yellow? Do you? Mr.
Dawe, with striking originality of conception, has crowned him with a
thin yellow wig; in colour precisely like Dyson's, in curl and
quantity resembling Mrs. Professor's (Godwin's wife); his limbs rather
stout, about such a man as my brother or Rickman, but no Atlas, nor
Hercules, nor yet so long as Dubois, the clown of Sadler's Wells. This
was judicious, taking the spirit of the story rather than the fact;
for doubtless God could communicate national salvation to the trust of
flax and tow as well as hemp and cordage, and could draw down a temple
with a golden tress, as soon as with all the cables of the British
navy....

"Wasn't you sorry for Lord Nelson? I have followed him in fancy ever
since I saw him in Pall Mall (I was prejudiced against him before),
looking just as a hero should look, and I have been very much cut
about it indeed. He was the only pretence of a great man we had.
Nobody is left of any name at all. His secretary died by his side. I
imagined him a Mr. Scott, to be the man you met at Hume's, but I learn
from Mrs. Hume it is not the same.... What other news is there, Mary?
What puns have I made in the last fortnight? You never remember them.
You have no relish for the comic. 'Oh, tell Hazlitt not to forget to
send the _American Farmer_. I daresay it's not as good as he fancies;
but a book's a book.'..."

Mary was no exclusive lover of her brother's old folios, his "ragged
veterans" and "midnight darlings," but a miscellaneous reader with a
decided leaning to modern tales and adventures--to "a story, well,
ill, or indifferently told, so there be life stirring in it," as Elia
has told.

It may be worth noting here that the Mr. Scott mentioned above, who
was not the secretary killed by Nelson's side, was his chaplain and,
though not killed, he received a wound in the skull of so curious a
nature as to cause occasionally a sudden suspension of memory. In the
midst of a sentence he would stop abruptly, losing, apparently, all
mental consciousness; and after a lapse of time, would resume at the
very word with which he had left off, wholly unaware of any breach of
continuity; as one who knew him has often related to me.



CHAPTER VIII.

The _Tales from Shakespeare_.--Letters to Sarah Stoddart.

1806.--Æt. 42.


Once begun, the _Tales from Shakespeare_ were worked at with spirit
and rapidity. By May 10th Charles writes to Manning:--

"[Mary] says you saw her writings about the other day, and she wishes
you should know what they are. She is doing for Godwin's bookseller
twenty of Shakespeare's plays, to be made into children's tales. Six
are already done by her; to wit, _The Tempest_, _A Winter's Tale_,
_Midsummer Night's Dream_, _Much Ado about Nothing_, _The Two
Gentlemen of Verona_, and _Cymbeline_. The _Merchant of Venice_ is in
forwardness. I have done _Othello_ and _Macbeth_, and mean to do all
the tragedies. I think it will be popular among the little people,
besides money. It is to bring in sixty guineas. Mary has done them
capitally I think you'd think."

"Godwin's bookseller" was really Godwin himself, who at his wife's
urgent entreaty had just started a "Magazine" of children's books in
Hanway Street, hoping thus to add to his precarious earnings as an
author. His own name was in such ill odour with the orthodox that he
used his foreman's--Thomas Hodgkins--over the shop door and on the
title pages, whilst the juvenile books which he himself wrote were
published under the name of Baldwin. When the business was removed to
Skinner Street it was carried on in his wife's name.

"My tales are to be published in separate storybooks," Mary tells
Sarah Stoddart. "I mean in single stories, like the children's little
shilling books. I cannot send you them in manuscript, because they are
all in the Godwins' hands; but one will be published very soon, and
then you shall have it _all in print_. I go on very well, and have no
doubt but I shall always be able to hit upon some such kind of job to
keep going on. I think I shall get fifty pounds a year at the lowest
calculation; but as I have not yet seen any money of my own earning,
for we do not expect to be paid till Christmas, I do not feel the good
fortune that has so unexpectedly befallen me half so much as I ought
to do. But another year no doubt I shall perceive it.... Charles has
written _Macbeth_, _Othello_, _King Lear_, and has begun _Hamlet_; you
would like to see us, as we often sit writing on one table (but not on
one cushion sitting), like Hermia and Helena in the _Midsummer Night's
Dream_; or rather, like an old literary Darby and Joan, I taking snuff
and he groaning all the while and saying he can make nothing of it,
which he always says till he has finished, and then he finds out he
has made something of it.

"If I tell you that you Widow Blackacre-ise you must tell me I
_Tale_-ise, for my Tales seem to be all the subject matter I write
about; and when you see them you will think them poor little
baby-stories to make such a talk about."

And a month later she says:--"The reason I have not written so long is
that I worked and worked in hopes to get through my task before the
holidays began; but at last I was not able, for Charles was forced to
get them now, or he could not have had any at all; and having picked
out the best stories first these latter ones take more time, being
more perplext and unmanageable. I have finished one to-day, which
teazed me more than all the rest put together. They sometimes plague
me as bad as your _lovers_ do you. How do you go on, and how many new
ones have you had lately?"

"Mary is just stuck fast in _All's Well that Ends Well_," writes
Charles. "She complains of having to set forth so many female
characters in boys' clothes. She begins to think Shakespeare must have
wanted imagination! I, to encourage her (for she often faints in the
prosecution of her great work), flatter her with telling how well such
and such a play is done. But she is stuck fast, and I have been
obliged to promise to assist her."

At last Mary, in a postscript to her letter to Sarah, adds: "I am in
good spirits just at this present time, for Charles has been reading
over the _Tale_ I told you plagued me so much, and he thinks it one of
the very best. You must not mind the many wretchedly dull letters I
have sent you; for, indeed, I cannot help it; my mind is always so
wretchedly _dry_ after poring over my work all day. But it will soon
be over. I am cooking a shoulder of lamb (Hazlitt dines with us), it
will be ready at 2 o'clock if you can pop in and eat a bit with us."

Mary took a very modest estimate of her own achievement; but time has
tested it, and passed it on to generation after generation of
children, and the last makes it as welcome as the first. Hardly a year
passes but a new edition is absorbed; and not by children only, but by
the young generally, for no better introduction to the study of
Shakspeare can be desired. Of the twenty plays included in the two
small volumes which were issued in January 1807, fourteen, _The
Tempest_, _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, _A Winter's Tale_, _Much Ado
about Nothing_, _As You Like It_, _The Two Gentlemen of Verona_, _The
Merchant of Venice_, _Cymbeline_, _All's Well that Ends Well_, _The
Taming of the Shrew_, _The Comedy of Errors_, _Measure for Measure_,
_Twelfth Night_, and _Pericles, Prince of Tyre_, were by Mary; and the
remaining six, the great tragedies, by Charles. Her share was the more
difficult and the less grateful, not only on account of the more
"perplext and unmanageable" plots of the comedies, but also of the
sacrifices entailed in converting witty dialogue into brief narrative.
But she "constantly evinces a rare shrewdness and tact in her
incidental criticisms, which show her to have been, in her way, as
keen an observer of human nature as her brother," says Mr. Ainger in
his preface to the _Golden Treasury_ edition of the _Tales_.
"She" had "not lived so much among the wits and humorists of her day
without learning some truths which helped her to interpret the two
chief characters of _Much Ado about Nothing_; for instance: 'The hint
Beatrice gave Benedict that he was a coward, by saying she would eat
all he had killed, he did not regard, knowing himself to be a brave
man; but there is nothing that great wits so much dread as the
imputation of buffoonery, because the charge comes sometimes a little
too near the truth; therefore Benedict perfectly hated Beatrice when
she called him the prince's jester.' Very profound, too, is the casual
remark upon the conduct of Claudio and his friends when the character
of Hero is suddenly blasted--conduct which has often perplexed older
readers for its heartlessness and insane credulity: 'The Prince and
Claudio left the church without staying to see if Hero would recover,
or at all regarding the distress into which they had thrown Leonato,
so _hard-hearted had their anger made them_."

If one must hunt for a flaw to show critical discernment, it is a pity
that in _Pericles_, otherwise so successfully handled, with judicious
ignoring of what is manifestly not Shakespeare's, a beautiful passage
is marred by the omission of a word that is the very heart of the
simile:--

    See how she 'gins to blow into life's flower again,

says Cerimon, as the seemingly dead Thaisa revives. "See, she begins
to blow into life again," Mary has it.

The _Tales_ appeared first in eight sixpenny numbers; but were soon
collected in two small volumes "embellished," or, as it turned out,
disfigured by twenty copper-plate illustrations, of which as of other
attendant vexations Lamb complains in a letter to Wordsworth, dated
Jan. 29, 1807:--

"We have booked off from the 'Swan and Two Necks,' Lad Lane, this day
(per coach), the _Tales from Shakespeare_. You will forgive the
plates, when I tell you they were left to the direction of Godwin, who
left the choice of subjects to the bad baby [Mrs. Godwin], who from
mischief (I suppose) has chosen one from d----d beastly vulgarity
(vide _Merch. Venice_), when no atom of authority was in the tale to
justify it; to another has given a name which exists not in the tale,
Nic Bottom, and which she thought would be funny, though in this I
suspect _his_ hand, for I guess her reading does not reach far enough
to know Bottom's christian name; and one of Hamlet and grave-digging,
a scene which is not hinted at in the story, and you might as well
have put King Canute the Great reproving his courtiers. The rest are
giants and giantesses. Suffice it to save our taste and damn our
folly, that we left all to a friend, W. G. who, in the first place,
cheated me by putting a name to them which I did not mean, but do not
repent, and then wrote a puff about their _simplicity_, &c. to go with
the advertisement as in my name! Enough of this egregious dupery. I
will try to abstract the load of teazing circumstances from the
stories, and tell you that I am answerable for _Lear_, _Macbeth_,
_Timon_, _Romeo_, _Hamlet_, _Othello_, for occasionally a tail-piece
or correction of grammar, for none of the cuts and all of the
spelling. The rest is my sister's. We think _Pericles_ of hers the
best, and _Othello_ of mine; but I hope all have some good. _As You
Like It_, we like least. So much, only begging you to tear out the
cuts and give them to Johnny as 'Mrs. Godwin's fancy'!!"

"I had almost forgot, my part of the Preface begins in the middle of a
sentence, in last but one page, after a colon, thus--

    :--which if they be happily so done, &c.

The former part hath a more feminine turn, and does hold me up
something as an instructor to young ladies; but upon my modesty's
honour I wrote it not.

"Godwin told my sister that the 'Baby' chose the subjects: a fact in
taste."

Mary's preface sets forth her aim and her difficulties with characteristic
good sense and simplicity. I have marked with a bracket the point at
which, quite tired and out of breath, as it were, at the end of her
labours, she put the pen into her brother's hand that he might finish
with a few decisive touches what remained to be said of their joint
undertaking:--


PREFACE.

The following Tales are meant to be submitted to the young reader as
an introduction to the study of Shakspeare, for which purpose his
words are used whenever it seemed possible to bring them in; and in
whatever has been added to give them the regular form of a connected
story, diligent care has been taken to select such words as might
least interrupt the effect of the beautiful English tongue in which he
wrote; therefore, words introduced into our language since his time
have been as far as possible avoided.

In those Tales which have been taken from the Tragedies, as my young
readers will perceive when they come to see the source from which
these stories are derived, Shakespeare's own words, with little
alteration, recur very frequently in the narrative as well as in the
dialogue; but in those made from the Comedies I found myself scarcely
ever able to turn his words into the narrative form; therefore I fear
in them I have made use of dialogue too frequently for young people
not used to the dramatic form of writing. But this fault--if it be, as
I fear, a fault--has been caused by my earnest wish to give as much of
Shakespeare's own words as possible; and if the "_He said_" and "_She
said_," the question and the reply, should sometimes seem tedious to
their young ears, they must pardon it, because it was the only way I
knew of in which I could give them a few hints and little foretastes
of the great pleasure which awaits them in their elder years, when
they come to the rich treasures from which these small and valueless
coins are extracted, pretending to no other merit than as faint and
imperfect stamps of Shakespeare's matchless image. Faint and imperfect
images they must be called, because the beauty of his language is too
frequently destroyed by the necessity of changing many of his
excellent words into words far less expressive of his true sense, to
make it read something like prose; and even in some few places where
his blank-verse is given unaltered, as hoping from its simple
plainness to cheat the young readers into the belief that they are
reading prose, yet still, his language being transplanted from its own
natural soil and wild poetic garden, it must want much of its native
beauty.

I have wished to make these tales easy reading for very young
children. To the utmost of my ability I have constantly kept this in
my mind; but the subjects of most of them made this a very difficult
task. It was no easy matter to give the histories of men and women in
terms familiar to the apprehension of a very young mind. For young
ladies, too, it has been my intention chiefly to write, because boys
are generally permitted the use of their fathers' libraries at a much
earlier age than girls are, they frequently having the best scenes of
Shakespeare by heart before their sisters are permitted to look into
this manly book; and therefore, instead of recommending these Tales to
the perusal of young gentlemen who can read them so much better in the
originals, I must rather beg their kind assistance in explaining to
their sisters such parts as are hardest for them to understand; and
when they have helped them to get over the difficulties, then perhaps
they will read to them--carefully selecting what is proper for a young
sister's ear--some passage which has pleased them in one of these
stories, in the very words of the scene from which it is taken. And I
trust they will find that the beautiful extracts, the select passages,
they may choose to give their sisters in this way will be much better
relished and understood from their having some notion of the general
story from one of these imperfect abridgments, which, if they be
fortunately so done as to prove delightful to any of you, my young
readers, I hope will have no worse effect upon you than to make you
wish yourselves a little older, that you may be allowed to read the
Plays at full length: such a wish will be neither peevish nor
irrational. When time and leave of judicious friends shall put them
into your hands, you will discover in such of them as are here
abridged--not to mention almost as many more which are left
untouched--many surprising events and turns of fortune, which for
their infinite variety could not be contained in this little book,
besides a world of sprightly and cheerful characters, both men and
women, the humour of which I was fearful of losing if I attempted to
reduce the length of them.

What these Tales have been to you in childhood, that and much more it
is my wish that the true Plays of Shakespeare may prove to you in
older years--enrichers of the fancy, strengthened of virtue, a
withdrawing from all selfish and mercenary thoughts, a lesson of all
sweet and honourable thoughts and actions, to teach you courtesy,
benignity, generosity, humanity; for of examples teaching these
virtues, his pages are full.

       *       *       *       *       *

If the "bad baby" chose the subjects, a stripling who was afterwards
to make his mark in art executed them; a young Irishman, son of a
leather-breeches maker, Mulready by name, whom Godwin and also Harris,
Newberry's successor, were at this time endeavouring to help in his
twofold struggle to earn a livelihood and obtain some training in art
(which he did chiefly in the studio of Banks the sculptor). Some of
his early illustrations to the rhymed satirical fables just then in
vogue, such as _The Butterfly's Ball_ and the _Peacock at Home_, show
humour as well as decisive artistic promise. But the young designer
seems to have collapsed altogether under the weight of Shakespeare's
creations; and whoever looks at the goggle-eyed ogre of the pantomime
species called Othello, as well as at the plates Lamb specifies, will
not wonder at his disgust. Curiously enough they have been attributed
to Blake; those in the edition of 1822, that is, which are identical
with those of 1807 and 1816; and as such figure in booksellers'
catalogues, with a correspondingly high price attached to the volumes,
notwithstanding the testimony to the contrary of Mr. Sheepshanks,
given in Stephen's _Masterpieces of Mulready_. Engraved by Blake they
may have been, and hence may have here and there traces of Blake-like
feeling and character; for though he was fifty at the time these were
executed, he still and always had to win his bread more often by
rendering with his graver the immature or brainless conceptions of
others, than by realising those of his own teeming and powerful
imagination.

The success of the _Tales_ was decisive and immediate. New editions
were called for in 1810, 1816, and 1822; but in concession, no doubt,
to Lamb's earnest remonstrances, only a certain portion of each
contained the obnoxious plates; the rest were issued with "merely a
beautiful head of our immortal dramatist from a much-admired painting
by Zoust," as Godwin's advertisement put it. Subsequently an edition,
with designs by Harvey, remained long in favour, and was reprinted
many times. In 1837, Robert, brother of the more famous George
Cruickshank, illustrated the book, and there was prefixed a memoir of
Lamb by J. W. Dalby, a friend of Leigh Hunt and contributor to the
_London Journal_. The _Golden Treasury_ edition, already spoken of,
has a dainty little frontispiece by Du Maurier, with which Lamb would
certainly have found no fault.

No sooner were the _Tales_ out of hand than Mary began a fresh task,
as Charles tells Manning in a letter written at the end of the year
(1806), wherein also is a glimpse of our friend Mr. Dawe not to be
here omitted: "Mr. Dawe is turned author; he has been in such a way
lately--Dawe the painter, I mean--he sits and stands about at
Holcroft's and says nothing; then sighs and leans his head on his
hand. I took him to be in love; but it seems he was only meditating a
work, _The Life of Morland_. The young man is not used to
composition."



CHAPTER IX.

Correspondence with Sarah Stoddart.--Hazlitt.--A Courtship and Wedding
at which Mary is Bridesmaid.

1806-8.--Æt. 42-44.


To return to domestic affairs, as faithfully reported to Sarah by Mary
whilst the _Tales_ were in progress:--

"May 14, 1806.

"No intention of forfeiting my promise, but want of time has prevented
me from continuing my _journal_. You seem pleased with the long stupid
one I sent, and, therefore, I shall certainly continue to write at
every opportunity. The reason why I have not had any time to spare is
because Charles has given himself some hollidays after the hard labour
of finishing his farce; and, therefore, I have had none of the evening
leisure I promised myself. Next week he promises to go to work again.
I wish he may happen to hit upon some new plan to his mind for another
farce [_Mr. H._ was accepted, but not yet brought out]. When once
begun, I do not fear his perseverance, but the hollidays he has
allowed himself I fear will unsettle him. I look forward to next week
with the same kind of anxiety I did to the new lodging. We have had,
as you know, so many teazing anxieties of late, that I have got a kind
of habit of foreboding that we shall never be comfortable, and that he
will never settle to work, which I know is wrong, and which I will try
with all my might to overcome; for certainly if I could but see things
as they really are, our prospects are considerably improved since the
memorable day of Mrs. Fenwick's last visit. I have heard nothing of
that good lady or of the Fells since you left us.

"We have been visiting a little to Norris's, Godwin's, and last night
we did not come home from Captain Burney's till two o'clock; the
_Saturday night_ was changed to Friday, because Rickman could not be
there to-night. We had the best _tea things_, and the litter all
cleared away, and everything as handsome as possible, Mrs. Rickman
being of the party. Mrs. Rickman is much increased in size since we
saw her last, and the alteration in her strait shape wonderfully
improves her. Phillips was there, and Charles had a long batch of
cribbage with him, and upon the whole we had the most chearful evening
I have known there a long time. To-morrow we dine at Holcroft's. These
things rather fatigue me; but I look for a quiet week next week, and
hope for better times. We have had Mrs. Brooks and all the Martins,
and we have likewise been there, so that I seem to have been in a
continual bustle lately. I do not think Charles cares so much for the
Martins as he did, which is a fact you will be glad to hear, though
you must not name them when you write; always remember when I tell you
anything about them, not to mention their names in return.

"We have had a letter from your brother by the same mail as yours I
suppose; he says he does not mean to return till summer, and that is
all he says about himself; his letter being entirely filled with a
long story about Lord Nelson--but nothing more than what the papers
have been full of--such as his last words, &c. Why does he tease you
with so much _good advice_; is it merely to fill up his letters, as he
filled ours with Lord Nelson's exploits? or has any new thing come out
against you? Has he discovered Mr. Curse-a-rat's correspondence? I
hope you will not write to that _news-sending_ gentleman any more. I
promised never more to give my _advice_, but one may be allowed to
_hope_ a little; and I also hope you will have something to tell me
soon about Mr. White. Have you seen him yet? I am sorry to hear your
mother is not better, but I am in a hoping humour just now, and I
cannot help hoping that we shall all see happier days. The bells are
just now ringing for the taking of the _Cape of Good Hope_.

"I have written to Mrs. Coleridge to tell her that her husband is at
Naples. Your brother slightly named his being there, but he did not
say that he had heard from him himself. Charles is very busy at the
office; he will be kept there to-day till seven or eight o'clock; and
he came home very _smoky and drinky_ last night, so that I am afraid a
hard day's work will not agree very well with him.

"O dear! what shall I say next? Why, this I will say next, that I wish
you was with me; I have been eating a mutton chop all alone, and I
have just been looking in the pint porter-pot which I find quite
empty, and yet I am still very dry. If you was with me, we would have
a glass of brandy and water; but it is quite impossible to drink
brandy and water by one's-self; therefore, I must wait with patience
till the kettle boils. I hate to drink tea alone, it is worse than
dining alone. We have got a fresh cargo of biscuits from Captain
Burney's. I have----

"May 14.--Here I was interrupted, and a long, tedious interval has
intervened, during which I have had neither time nor inclination to
write a word. The lodging, that pride of your heart and mine, is given
up, and _here he is again_--Charles, I mean--as unsettled and
undetermined as ever. When he went to the poor lodging after the
holidays I told you he had taken, he could not endure the solitariness
of them, and I had no rest for the sole of my foot till I promised to
believe his solemn protestations that he could and would write as well
at home as there. Do you believe this?

"I have no power over Charles; he will do what he will do. But I ought
to have some little influence over myself; and, therefore, I am most
manfully resolving to turn over a new leaf with my own mind. Your
visit, though not a very comfortable one to yourself, has been of
great use to me. I set you up in my fancy as a kind of _thing_ that
takes an interest in my concerns; and I hear you talking to me, and
arguing the matter very learnedly when I give way to despondency. You
shall hear a good account of me and the progress I make in altering my
fretful temper to a calm and quiet one. It is but once being thorowly
convinced one is wrong, to make one resolve to do so no more; and I
know my dismal faces have been almost as great a drawback upon
Charles's comfort, as his feverish, teazing ways have been upon mine.
Our love for each other has been the torment of our lives hitherto. I
am most seriously intending to bend the whole force of my mind to
counteract this, and I think I see some prospect of success.

"Of Charles ever bringing any work to pass at home, I am very
doubtful; and of the farce succeeding, I have little or no hope; but
if I could once get into the way of being chearful myself, I should
see an easy remedy in leaving town and living cheaply, almost wholly
alone; but till I do find we really are comfortable alone, and by
ourselves, it seems a dangerous experiment. We shall certainly stay
where we are till after next Christmas; and in the meantime, as I told
you before, all my whole thoughts shall be to _change_ myself into
just such a chearful soul as you would be in a lone house, with no
companion but your brother, if you had nothing to vex you; nor no
means of wandering after _Curse-a-rats_. Do write soon; though I write
all about myself, I am thinking all the while of you, and I am uneasy
at the length of time it seems since I heard from you. Your mother and
Mr. White is running continually in my head; and this _second winter_
makes me think how cold, damp, and forlorn your solitary house will
feel to you. I would your feet were perched up again on our
fender." ...

If ever a woman knew how to keep on the right side of that line which,
in the close companionship of daily life is so hard to find, the line
that separates an honest faithful friend from "a torment of a
monitor," and could divine when and how to lend a man a helping hand
against his own foibles, and when to forbear and wait patiently, that
woman was Mary Lamb.

Times were changed indeed since Lamb could speak of himself as "alone,
obscure, without a friend." Now friends and acquaintance thronged
round him, till rest and quiet were almost banished from his
fire-side; and though they were banished for the most part by social
pleasures he dearly loved--hearty, simple, intellectual pleasures--the
best of talk, with no ceremony and the least of expense, yet they had
to be paid for by Mary and himself in fevered nerves, in sleep
curtailed and endless interruptions to work. There were, besides,
"social harpies who preyed on him for his liquors," whom he lacked
firmness to shake off, in spite of those "dismal faces" consequent in
Mary, of which she penitently accuses herself.

Apart from external distractions, the effort to write, especially any
sort of task work, was often so painful to his irritable nerves that,
as he said, it almost "teazed him into a fever," whilst Mary's anxious
love and close sympathy made his distress her own. There is a letter
to Godwin deprecating any appearance of unfriendliness in having
failed to review his _Life of Chaucer_, containing a passage on this
subject, which the lover of Lamb's writings and character (and who is
one must needs be the other) will ponder with peculiar interest:--

"You, by long habits of composition, and a greater command over your
own powers, cannot conceive of the desultory and uncertain way in
which I (an author by fits) sometimes cannot put the thoughts of a
common letter into sane prose. Any work which I take upon myself as an
engagement will act upon me to torment, _e.g._ when I have undertaken,
as three or four times I have, a schoolboy copy of verses for Merchant
Taylors' boys at a guinea a copy, I have fretted over them in perfect
inability to do them, and have made my sister wretched with my
wretchedness for a week together. As to reviewing, in particular, my
head is so whimsical a head that I cannot, after reading another man's
book, let it have been never so pleasing, give any account of it in
any methodical way. I cannot follow his train. Something like this you
must have perceived of me in conversation. Ten thousand times I have
confessed to you, talking of my talents, my utter inability to
remember, in any comprehensive way, what I read. I can vehemently
applaud, or perversely stickle at _parts,_ but I cannot grasp a whole.
This infirmity may be seen in my two little compositions, the tale and
my play, in both which no reader, however partial, can find any
story.... If I bring you a crude, wretched paper on Sunday, you must
burn it and forgive me; if it proves anything better than I predict,
may it be a peace-offering of sweet incense between us."

The two friends whose society was always soothing, were far away now.
Coleridge, who could always 'wind them up and set them going again,'
as Mary said, was still wandering they knew not where on the
Continent, and Manning had, at last, carried out a long-cherished
scheme and gone to China for four years which, however, stretched to
twelve, as Lamb prophesied it would.

"I didn't know what your going was till I shook a last fist with you,"
says Lamb, "and then 'twas just like having shaken hands with a wretch
on the fatal scaffold, for when you are down the ladder you never can
stretch out to him again. Mary says you are dead, and there's nothing
to do but to leave it to time to do for us in the end what it always
does for those who mourn for people in such a case: but she'll see by
your letter you are not quite dead. A little kicking and agony, and
then--Martin Burney _took me out_ a walking that evening, and we
talked of Manning, and then I came home and smoked for you; and at
twelve o'clock came home Mary and Monkey Louisa from the play, and
there was more talk and more smoking, and they all seemed first-rate
characters because they knew a certain person. But what's the use of
talking about 'em? By the time you'll have made your escape from the
Kalmucks, you'll have stayed so long I shall never be able to bring to
your mind who Mary was, who will have died about a year before, nor
who the Holcrofts were. Me, perhaps, you will mistake for Phillips, or
confound me with Mr. Dawe, because you saw us together. Mary, whom you
seem to remember yet, is not quite easy that she had not a formal
parting from you. I wish it had so happened. But you must bring her a
token, a shawl or something, and remember a sprightly little mandarin
for our mantel-piece as a companion to the child I am going to
purchase at the museum.... O Manning, I am serious to sinking almost,
when I think that all those evenings which you have made so pleasant
are gone perhaps for ever.... I will nurse the remembrance of your
steadiness and quiet which used to infuse something like itself into
our nervous minds. Mary used to call you our ventilator."

Mary's next letters to Miss Stoddart continue to fulfil her promise of
writing a kind of journal:--


"June 2nd.

"You say truly that I have sent you too many make-believe letters. I
do not mean to serve you so again if I can help it. I have been very
ill for some days past with the tooth-ache. Yesterday I had it drawn,
and I feel myself greatly relieved, but far from being easy, for my
head and my jaws still ache; and being unable to do any business, I
would wish to write you a long letter to atone for my former offences;
but I feel so languid that I fear wishing is all I can do.

"I am sorry you are so worried with business, and I am still more
sorry for your sprained ancle. You ought not to walk upon it. What is
the matter between you and your good-natured maid you used to boast
of? and what the devil is the matter with your aunt? You say she is
discontented. You must bear with them as well as you can, for
doubtless it is your poor mother's teazing that puts you all out of
sorts. I pity you from my heart.

"We cannot come to see you this summer, nor do I think it advisable to
come and incommode you when you for the same expense could come to us.
Whenever you feel yourself disposed to run away from your troubles,
come to us again. I wish it was not such a long, expensive journey,
and then you could run backwards and forwards every month or two. I am
very sorry you still hear nothing from Mr. White. I am afraid that is
all at an end. What do you intend to do about Mr. Turner?... William
Hazlitt, the brother of him you know, is in town. I believe you have
heard us say we like him. He came in good time, for the loss of
Manning made Charles very dull, and he likes Hazlitt better than
anybody, except Manning. My tooth-ache has moped Charles to death; you
know how he hates to see people ill....

"When I write again, you will hear tidings of the farce, for Charles
is to go in a few days to the managers to inquire about it. But that
must now be a next year's business too, even if it does succeed, so
it's all looking forward and no prospect of present gain. But that's
better than no hopes at all, either for present or future times....
Charles smokes still, and will smoke to the end of the chapter. Martin
[Burney] has just been here. My _Tales_ (_again_) and Charles' Farce
have made the boy mad to turn author, and he has made the _Winter's
Tale_ into a story; but what Charles says of himself is really true of
Martin, for he can _make nothing at all of it_, and I have been
talking very eloquently this morning to convince him that nobody can
write farces, &c. under thirty years of age; and so, I suppose, he
will go home and new-model his farce.

"What is Mr. Turner, and what is likely to come of him? And how do you
like him? And what do you intend to do about it? I almost wish you to
remain single till your mother dies, and then come and live with us,
and we would either get you a husband, or teach you how to live
comfortably without. I think I should like to have you always, to the
end of our lives, living with us; and I do not know any reason why
that should not be, except for the great fancy you seem to have for
marrying, which after all is but a hazardous kind of affair; but,
however, do as you like; every man knows best what pleases himself
best.

"I have known many single men I should have liked in my life (_if it
had suited them_) for a husband; but very few husbands have I ever
wished was mine, which is rather against the state in general; but one
never is disposed to envy wives their good husbands. So much for
marrying--but, however, get married if you can.

"I say we shall not come and see you, and I feel sure we shall not;
but if some sudden freak was to come into our wayward heads, could you
at all manage? Your mother we should not mind, but I think still it
would be so vastly inconvenient. I am certain we shall not come, and
yet _you_ may tell me when you write if it would be horribly
inconvenient if we did; and do not tell me any lies, but say truly
whether you would rather we did or not.

"God bless you, my dearest Sarah! I wish for your sake I could have
written a very amusing letter; but do not scold, for my head aches
sadly. Don't mind my head-ache, for before you get this it will be
well, being only from the pains of my jaws and teeth. Farewell."


"July 2nd.

"Charles and Hazlitt are going to Sadler's Wells, and I am amusing
myself in their absence with reading a manuscript of Hazlitt's, but
have laid it down to write a few lines to tell you how we are going
on. Charles has begged a month's hollidays, of which this is the first
day, and they are all to be spent at home. We thank you for your kind
invitations, and were half-inclined to come down to you; but after
mature deliberation, and many wise consultations--such as you know we
often hold--we came to the resolution of staying quietly at home, and
during the hollidays we are both of us to set stoutly to work and
finish the tales. We thought if we went anywhere and left them undone,
they would lay upon our minds, and that when we returned we should
feel unsettled, and our money all spent besides; and next summer we
are to be very rich, and then we can afford a long journey somewhere;
I will not say to Salisbury, because I really think it is better for
you to come to us. But of that we will talk another time.

"The best news I have to send you is that the Farce is accepted; that
is to say, the manager has written to say it shall be brought out when
an opportunity serves. I hope that it may come out by next Christmas.
You must come and see it the first night; for if it succeeds it will
be a great pleasure to you, and if it should not we shall want your
consolation; so you must come.

"I shall soon have done my work, and know not what to begin next. Now,
will you set your brains to work and invent a story, either for a
short child's story, or a long one that would make a kind of novel, or
a story that would make a play. Charles wants me to write a play, but
I am not over-anxious to set about it. But, seriously, will you draw
me out a sketch of a story, either from memory of anything you have
read, or from your own invention, and I will fill it up in some way or
other....

"I met Mrs. Fenwick at Mrs. Holcroft's the other day. She looked
placid and smiling, but I was so disconcerted that I hardly knew how
to sit upon my chair. She invited us to come and see her, but we did
not invite her in return, and nothing at all was said in an
explanatory sort, so that matter rests for the present." [Perhaps the
little imbroglio was the result of some effort on Mary's part to
diminish the frequency of the undesirable Mr. Fenwick's visits. He was
a good-for-nothing; but his wife's name deserves to be remembered
because she nursed Mary Wollstonecraft tenderly and devotedly in her
last illness.] "I am sorry you are altogether so uncomfortable; I
shall be glad to hear you are settled at Salisbury: that must be
better than living in a lone house companionless, as you are. I wish
you could afford to bring your mother up to London, but that is quite
impossible. Mrs. Wordsworth is brought to bed, and I ought to write to
Miss Wordsworth and thank her for the information, but I suppose I
shall defer it till another child is coming. I do so hate writing
letters. I wish all my friends would come and live in town. It is not
my dislike to writing letters that prevents my writing to you, but
sheer want of time, I assure you, because you care not how stupidly I
write so as you do but hear at the time what we are about.

"Let me hear from you soon, and do let me hear some good news, and
don't let me hear of your walking with sprained ancles again; no
business is an excuse for making yourself lame.

"I hope your poor mother is better, and Aunty and Maid jog on pretty
well; remember me to them all in due form and order. Charles's love
and our best wishes that all your little busy affairs may come to a
prosperous conclusion."

"Friday evening.

"They (Hazlitt and Charles) came home from Sadler's Wells so dismal
and dreary dull on Friday evening, that I gave them both a good
scolding, _quite a setting to rights_; and I think it has done some
good, for Charles has been very chearful ever since. I begin to hope
the _home hollidays_ will go on very well. Write directly, for I am
uneasy about your _Lovers_; I wish something was settled. God bless
you." ...

Sarah's lovers continued a source of lively if 'uneasy' interest to
Mary. The enterprising young lady had now another string to her bow;
indeed, matters this time went so far that the question of settlements
was raised and Mary wrote a letter in which her "advising spirit"
shows itself as wise as it was unobtrusive, as candid as it was
tolerant. Dr. Stoddart clearly estimated her judgment and tact, after
his fashion, as highly as Coleridge and Wordsworth did after theirs.
Mary wrote:--


"October 22.

"I thank you a thousand times for the beautiful work you have sent me.
I received the parcel from a strange gentleman yesterday. I like the
patterns very much. You have quite set me up in finery; but you should
have sent the silk handkerchief too; will you make a parcel of that
and send it by the Salisbury coach? I should like to have it in a few
days, because we have not yet been to Mr. Babb's, and that
handkerchief would suit this time of year nicely. I have received a
long letter from your brother on the subject of your intended
marriage. I have no doubt but you also have one on this business,
therefore it is needless to repeat what he says. I am well pleased to
find that, upon the whole, he does not seem to see it in an
unfavourable light. He says that if Mr. Dowling is a worthy man he
shall have no objection to become the brother of a farmer; and he
makes an odd request to me, that I shall set out to Salisbury to look
at and examine into the merits of the said Mr. D., and speaks very
confidently as if you would abide by my determination. A pretty sort
of an office truly! Shall I come? The objections he starts are only
such as you and I have already talked over--such as the difference in
age, education, habits of life, &c.

"You have gone too far in this affair for any interference to be at
all desirable; and if you had not, I really do not know what my wishes
would be. When you bring Mr. Dowling at Christmas, I suppose it will
be quite time enough for me to sit in judgment upon him; but my
examination will not be a very severe one. If you fancy a very young
man, and he likes an elderly gentlewoman, if he likes a learned and
accomplished lady, and you like a not very learned youth, who may need
a little polishing, which probably he will never acquire; it is all
very well, and God bless you both together, and may you be both very
long in the same mind!

"I am to assist you too, your brother says, in drawing up the marriage
settlements, another thankful office! I am not, it seems, to suffer
you to keep too much money in your own power, and yet I am to take
care of you in case of bankruptcy; and I am to recommend to you, for
the better management of this point, the serious perusal of _Jeremy
Taylor_, his opinion on the marriage state, especially his advice
against _separate interests_ in that happy state; and I am also to
tell you how desirable it is that the husband should have the entire
direction of all money concerns, except, as your good brother adds, in
the case of his own family, when the money, he observes, is very
properly deposited in Mrs. Stoddart's hands, she being better suited
to enjoy such a trust than any other woman, and therefore it is fit
that the general rule should not be extended to her.

"We will talk over these things when you come to town; and as to
settlements, which are matters of which I--I never having had a penny
in my own disposal--never in my life thought of; and if I had been
blessed with a good fortune, and that marvellous blessing to boot, a
good husband, I verily believe I should have crammed it all uncounted
into his pocket. But thou hast a cooler head of thine own, and I
daresay will do exactly what is expedient and proper; but your
brother's opinion seems somewhat like Mr. Barwis's, and I daresay you
will take it into due consideration; yet, perhaps, an offer of your
own money to take a farm may make _uncle_ do less for his nephew, and
in that case Mr. D. might be a loser by your generosity. Weigh all
these things well, and if you can so contrive it, let your brother
_settle_ the _settlements_ himself when he returns, which will most
probably be long before you want them.

"You are settled, it seems, in the very house which your brother most
dislikes. If you find this house very inconvenient, get out of it as
fast as you can, for your brother says he sent you the fifty pounds to
make you comfortable; and by the general tone of his letter I am sure
he wishes to make you easy in money matters; therefore, why straiten
yourself to pay the debt you owe him, which I am well assured he never
means to take? Thank you for the letter, and for the picture of pretty
little chubby nephew John. I have been busy making waiskoats and
plotting new work to succeed the _Tales_; as yet I have not hit upon
anything to my mind.

"Charles took an emendated copy of his farce to Mr. Wroughton, the
manager, yesterday. Mr. Wroughton was very friendly to him, and
expressed high approbation of the farce; but there are two, he tells
him, to come out before it; yet he gave him hopes that it will come
out this season; but I am afraid you will not see it by Christmas. It
will do for another jaunt for you in the spring. We are pretty well
and in fresh spirits about this farce. Charles has been very good
lately in the matter of _Smoking_.

"When you come bring the gown you wish to sell, Mrs. Coleridge will be
in town then, and if she happens not to fancy it, perhaps some other
person may.

"Coleridge, I believe, is gone home, he left us with that design; but
we have not heard from him this fortnight....

"My respects to Coridon, mother, and aunty. Farewell. My best wishes
are with you.

"When I saw what a prodigious quantity of work you had put into the
finery, I was quite ashamed of my unreasonable request. I will never
serve you so again, but I do dearly love worked muslin."

So Coleridge was come back at last. "He is going to turn lecturer, on
Taste, at the Royal Institution," Charles tells Manning. And the Farce
came out and failed. "We are pretty stout about it," he says to
Wordsworth; "but, after all, we had rather it had succeeded. You will
see the prologue in most of the morning papers. It was received with
such shouts as I never witnessed to a prologue. It was attempted to be
encored. How hard!--a thing I merely did as a task, because it was
wanted, and set no great store by; and _Mr. H._!! The number of
friends we had in the house, my brother and I being in public offices,
was astonishing, but they yielded at length to a few hisses. A hundred
hisses! (D--n the word, I write it like kisses--how different!) a
hundred hisses outweigh a thousand claps. The former come more
directly from the heart. Well 'tis withdrawn and there is an end.
Better luck to us."

Sarah's visit came to pass, and proved an eventful one to her. For at
the Lambs she now saw frequently their new friend, quite another
William than he of "English partridge memory," William Hazlitt; and
the intercourse between them soon drifted into a queer kind of
courtship, and finally the courtship into marriage. Mary's next
letters give piquant glimpses of the wayward course of their
love-making. If her sympathies had been ready and unfailing in the
case of the unknown lovers, Messrs. White, Dowling, Turner, and
mysterious _Curse-a-rat_, this was an affair of deep and heartfelt
interest:--


"Oct. 1807.

"I am two letters in your debt, but it has not been so much from
idleness, as a wish to see how your comical love affair would turn
out. You know I make a pretence not to interfere, but like all old
maids I feel a mighty solicitude about the event of love stories. I
learn from the lover that he has not been so remiss in his duty as you
supposed. His effusion, and your complaints of his inconstancy,
crossed each other on the road. He tells me his was a very strange
letter, and that probably it has affronted you. That it was a strange
letter I can readily believe; but that you were affronted by a strange
letter is not so easy for me to conceive, that not being your way of
taking things. But, however it may be, let some answer come either to
him or else to me, showing cause why you do not answer him. And pray,
by all means, preserve the said letter, that I may one day have the
pleasure of seeing how Mr. Hazlitt treats of love.

"I was at your brother's on Thursday. Mrs. Stoddart tells me she has
not written, because she does not like to put you to the expense of
postage. They are very well. Little Missy thrives amazingly. Mrs.
Stoddart conjectures she is in the family-way again, and those kind of
conjectures generally prove too true. Your other sister-in-law, Mrs.
Hazlitt, was brought to bed last week of a boy, so that you are likely
to have plenty of nephews and nieces. Yesterday evening we were at
Rickman's, and who should we find there but Hazlitt; though if you do
not know it was his first invitation there, it will not surprise you
as much as it did us. We were very much pleased, because we dearly
love our friends to be respected by our friends. The most remarkable
events of the evening were, that we had a very fine pine apple, that
Mr. Phillips, Mr. Lamb, and Mr. Hazlitt played at cribbage in the most
polite and gentlemanly manner possible, and that I won two rubbers at
whist.

"I am glad Aunty left you some business to do. Our compliments to her
and to your mother. Is it as cold at Winterslow as it is here? How do
the Lions go on? I am better, and Charles is tolerably well. Godwin's
new tragedy [Antonio] will probably be damned the latter end of next
week [which it was]. Charles has written the prologue. Prologues and
epilogues will be his death. If you know the extent of Mrs. Reynolds'
poverty, you will be glad to hear Mr. Norris has got ten pounds a year
for her from the Temple Society. She will be able to make out pretty
well now.

"Farewell. Determine as wisely as you can in regard to Hazlitt, and if
your determination is to have him, Heaven send you many happy years
together. If I am not mistaken I have concluded letters on the Corydon
courtship with this same wish. I hope it is not ominous of change;
for, if I were sure you would not be quite starved to death nor beaten
to a mummy, I should like to see Hazlitt and you come together if (as
Charles observes) it were only for the joke's sake. Write instantly to
me."


"Dec. 21.

"I have deferred answering your last letter in hopes of being able to
give you some intelligence that might be useful to you; for I every
day expected that Hazlitt or you would communicate the affair to your
brother; but as the doctor is silent upon the subject, I conclude he
knows nothing of the matter. You desire my advice, and therefore I
tell you I think you ought to tell your brother as soon as possible;
for, at present, he is on very friendly visiting terms with Hazlitt
and, if he is not offended by too long concealment, will do everything
in his power to serve you. If you chuse that I should tell him I will;
but I think it would come better from you. If you can persuade Hazlitt
to mention it, that would be still better; for I know your brother
would be unwilling to give credit to you, because you deceived
yourself in regard to Corydon. Hazlitt, I know, is shy of speaking
first; but I think it of such great importance to you to have your
brother friendly in the business that, if you can overcome his
reluctance, it would be a great point gained. For you must begin the
world with ready money--at least an hundred pounds; for if you once go
into furnished lodgings, you will never be able to lay by money to buy
furniture. If you obtain your brother's approbation he might assist
you, either by lending or otherwise. I have a great opinion of his
generosity, where he thinks it would be useful.

"Hazlitt's brother is mightily pleased with the match, but he says you
must have furniture, and be clear in the world at first setting out,
or you will be always behind-hand. He also said he would give you what
furniture he could spare. I am afraid you can bring but few things
away from your own house. What a pity that you have laid out so much
money on your cottage, that money would just have done. I most
heartily congratulate you on having so well got over your first
difficulties; and now that it is quite settled, let us have no more
fears. I now mean not only to hope and wish but to persuade myself
that you will be very happy together. Endeavour to keep your mind as
easy as you can. You ought to begin the world with a good stock of
health and spirits; it is quite as necessary as ready money at first
setting out. Do not teize yourself about coming to town. When your
brother learns how things are going on, we shall consult him about
meetings and so forth; but at present, any hasty step of that kind
would not answer, I know. If Hazlitt were to go down to Salisbury, or
you were to come up here without consulting your brother, you know it
would never do. Charles is just come into dinner: he desires his love
and best wishes."

Perhaps the reader will, like Mary, be curious to see one of the
lover's letters in this "comical love affair." Fortunately one, the
very one, it seems, which Sarah's crossed and was preserved at Mary's
particular request, is given in the Hazlitt _Memoirs_ and runs thus:--


"MY DEAR LOVE,

"Above a week has passed and I have received no letter--not one of
those letters 'in which I live or have no life at all.' What is become
of you? Are you married, hearing that I was dead (for so it has been
reported)? or are you gone into a nunnery? or are you fallen in love
with some of the amorous heroes of Boccaccio? Which of them is it? Is
it Chynon, who was transformed from a clown into a lover, and learned
to spell by the force of beauty? or with Lorenzo the lover of
Isabella, whom her three brethren hated (as your brother does me), who
was a merchant's clerk? or with Federigo Alberigi, an honest gentleman
who ran through his fortune, and won his mistress by cooking a fair
falcon for her dinner, though it was the only means he had left of
getting a dinner for himself? This last is the man; and I am the more
persuaded of it because I think I won your good liking myself by
giving you an entertainment--of sausages, when I had no money to buy
them with. Nay now, never deny it! Did not I ask your consent that
very night after, and did you not give it? Well, I should be
confoundedly jealous of those fine gallants if I did not know that a
living dog is better than a dead lion; though now I think of it
Boccaccio does not in general make much of his lovers; it is his women
who are so delicious. I almost wish I had lived in those times and had
been a little _more amiable_. Now if a woman had written the book, it
would not have had this effect upon me: the men would have been heroes
and angels, and the women nothing at all. Isn't there some truth in
that? Talking of departed loves, I met my old flame the other day in
the street. I did dream of her _one_ night since, and only one: every
other night I have had the same dream I have had for these two months
past. Now if you are at all reasonable, this will satisfy you.

"_Thursday morning_.--The book is come. When I saw it I thought that
you had sent it back in a huff, tired out by my sauciness and
_coldness_ and delays, and were going to keep an account of dimities
and sayes, or to salt pork and chronicle small beer as the dutiful
wife of some fresh-looking rural swain; so that you cannot think how
surprised and pleased I was to find them all done. I liked your note
as well or better than the extracts; it is just such a note as such a
nice rogue as you ought to write after the _provocation_ you had
received. I would not give a pin for a girl 'whose cheeks never
tingle,' nor for myself if I could not make them tingle sometimes. Now
though I am always writing to you about 'lips and noses' and such sort
of stuff, yet as I sit by my fireside (which I generally do eight or
ten hours a day) I oftener think of you in a serious sober light. For
indeed I never love you so well as when I think of sitting down with
you to dinner on a boiled scrag of mutton and hot potatoes. You please
my fancy more then than when I think of you in ----; no, you would
never forgive me if I were to finish the sentence. Now I think of it,
what do you mean to be dressed in when we are married? But it does not
much matter! I wish you would let your hair grow; though perhaps
nothing will be better than 'the same air and look with which at first
my heart was took.' But now to business. I mean soon to call upon your
brother _in form_, namely, as soon as I get quite well, which I hope
to do in about another _fortnight_; and then I hope you will come up
by the coach as fast as the horses can carry you, for I long mightily
to be in your ladyship's presence to vindicate my character. I think
you had better sell the small house, I mean that at £4 10s., and I
will borrow £100, so that we shall set off merrily in spite of all the
prudence of Edinburgh.

"Good-bye, little dear!"


Poor Sarah! That "want of a certain dignity of action," nay, of a due
"respect for herself," which Mary lamented in her, had been discovered
but too quickly by her lover and reflected back, as it was sure to be,
in his attitude towards her.

Charles, also, as an interested and amused spectator of the unique
love-affair, reports progress to Manning in a letter of Feb. 26th,
1808:--

"Mary is very thankful for your remembrance of her; and with the least
suspicion of mercenariness, as the silk, the _symbolum materiale_ of
your friendship, has not yet appeared. I think Horace says somewhere
_nox longa_. I would not impute negligence or unhandsome delays to a
person whom you have honoured with your confidence; but I have not
heard of the silk or of Mr. Knox save by your letter. May be he
expects the first advances! or it may be that he has not succeeded in
getting the article on shore, for it is among the _res prohibitæ et
non nisi smuggle-ationis viâ fruendæ_. But so it is, in the
friendships between _wicked men_ the very expressions of their
good-will cannot but be sinful. A treaty of marriage is on foot
between William Hazlitt and Miss Stoddart. Something about settlements
only retards it. She has somewhere about £80 a year, to be £120 when
her mother dies. He has no settlement except what he can claim from
the parish. _Pauper est tamen, sed amat._ The thing is therefore in
abeyance. But there is love a-both sides."

In the same month Mary wrote Sarah a letter showing she was alive to
the fact that a courtship which appeared to on-lookers, if not to the
lover himself, much in the light of a good joke, was not altogether a
re-assuring commencement of so serious an affair as marriage. She had
her misgivings, and no wonder, as to how far the easy-going,
comfort-loving, matter-of-fact Sarah, was fit for the difficult
happiness of life-long companionship with a man of ardent genius and
morbid, splenetic temperament, to whom ideas were meat drink and
clothing, while the tangible entities bearing those names were likely
to be precariously supplied. Still Mary liked both the lovers so well
she could not choose but that hope should preponderate over fear.
Meeting as they did by the Lambs' fireside, each saw the other to the
best advantage. For, in the glow of Mary's sympathy and faith and the
fine stimulating atmosphere of Charles' genius, Hazlitt's shyness had
first melted away; his thoughts had broken the spell of self-distrust
that kept them pent in uneasy silence and had learned to flow forth in
a strong and brilliant current, whilst the lowering frown which so
often clouded his handsome, eager face was wont to clear off. There,
too, Sarah's unaffected good sense and hearty, friendly nature had
free play, and perhaps Mary's friendship even reflected on her a tinge
of the ideal to veil the coarser side of her character:--

"I have sent your letter and drawing" [of Middleton Cottage, Winterslow,
where Sarah was living], Mary writes, "off to Wem [Hazlitt's father's
in Shropshire], where I conjecture Hazlitt is. He left town on
Saturday afternoon without telling us where he was going. He seemed
very impatient at not hearing from you. He was very ill, and I suppose
is gone home to his father's to be nursed. I find Hazlitt has
mentioned to you the intention which we had of asking you up to town,
which we were bent on doing; but, having named it since to your
brother, the doctor expressed a strong desire that you should not come
to town to be at any other house but his own, for he said it would
have a very strange appearance. His wife's father is coming to be with
them till near the end of April, after which time he shall have full
room for you. And if you are to be married he wishes that you should
be married with all the proper decorums _from his house_. Now though
we should be most willing to run any hazards of disobliging him if
there were no other means of your and Hazlitt's meeting, yet as he
seems so friendly to the match it would not be worth while to alienate
him from you and ourselves too, for the slight accommodation which the
difference of a few weeks would make; provided always, and be it
understood, that if you and H. make up your minds to be married before
the time in which you can be at your brother's, our house stands open
and most ready at a moment's notice to receive you. Only we would not
quarrel unnecessarily with your brother. Let there be a clear
necessity shown and we will quarrel with anybody's brother.

"Now, though I have written to the above effect, I hope you will not
conceive but that both my brother and I had looked forward to your
coming with unmixed pleasure, and are really disappointed at your
brother's declaration; for, next to the pleasure of being married, is
the pleasure of making or helping marriages forward.

"We wish to hear from you that you do not take our seeming change of
purpose in ill part, for it is but seeming on our part, for it was my
brother's suggestion, by him first mentioned to Hazlitt, and cordially
approved by me; but your brother has set his face against it, and it
is better to take him along with us in our plans, if he will
good-naturedly go along with us, than not.

"The reason I have not written lately has been that I thought it
better to leave you all to the workings of your own minds in this
momentous affair, in which the inclinations of a bystander have a
right to form a wish, but not to give a vote.

"Being, with the help of wide lines, at the end of my last page, I
conclude with our kind wishes and prayers for the best."

The wedding day was fixed, and Mary was to be bridesmaid.

"Do not be angry that I have not written to you," she says. "I have
promised your brother to be at your wedding, and that favour you must
accept as an atonement for my offences. You have been in no want of
correspondence lately, and I wished to leave you both to your own
inventions.

"The border you are working for me I prize at a very high rate,
because I consider it as the last work you can do for me, the time so
fast approaching that you must no longer work for your friends. Yet my
old fault of giving away presents has not left me, and I am desirous
of even giving away this your last gift. I had intended to have given
it away without your knowledge, but I have intrusted my secret to
Hazlitt and I suppose it will not remain a secret long, so I
condescend to consult you.

"It is to Miss Hazlitt to whose superior claim I wish to give up my
right to this precious worked border. Her brother William is her great
favourite and she would be pleased to possess his bride's last work.
Are you not to give the fellow border to one sister-in-law, and
therefore has she not a just claim to it? I never heard, in the annals
of weddings (since the days of Nausicaa, and she only washed her old
gowns for that purpose) that the brides ever furnished the apparel of
their maids. Besides I can be completely clad in your work without it;
for the spotted muslin will serve both for cap and hat (_nota bene_,
my hat is the same as yours), and the gown you sprigged for me has
never been made up, therefore I can wear that--or, if you like better,
I will make up a new silk which Manning has sent me from China.
Manning would like to hear I wore it for the first time at your
wedding. It is a very pretty light colour, but there is an objection
(besides not being your work, and that is a very serious objection),
and that is, Mrs. Hazlitt tells me that all Winterslow would be in an
uproar if the bridesmaid was to be dressed in anything but white, and
although it is a very light colour, I confess we cannot call it white,
being a sort of dead-whiteish bloom colour. Then silk, perhaps, in a
morning is not so proper, though the occasion, so joyful, might
justify a full dress. Determine for me in this perplexity between the
sprig and the China-Manning silk. But do not contradict my whim about
Miss Hazlitt having the border, for I have set my heart upon the
matter. If you agree with me in this, I shall think you have forgiven
me for giving away your pin--that was a _mad_ trick; but I had many
obligations and no money. I repent me of the deed, wishing I had it
now to send to Miss H. with the border; and I cannot, will not give
her the Doctor's pin, for having never had any presents from gentlemen
in my young days, I highly prize all they now give me, thinking my
latter days are better than my former.

"You must send this same border in your own name to Miss Hazlitt,
which will save me the disgrace of giving away your gift, and make it
amount merely to a civil refusal.

"I shall have no present to give you on your marriage, nor do I expect
I shall be rich enough to give anything to baby at the first
christening; but at the second or third child's, I hope to have a
coral or so to spare out of my own earnings. Do not ask me to be
godmother, for I have an objection to that; but there is, I believe,
no serious duties attaching to a bridesmaid, therefore I come with a
willing mind, bringing nothing with me but many wishes, and not a few
hopes, and a very little fear of happy years to come."

If, as may be hoped, the final decision was in favour of the
'dead-whiteish-bloom-China-Manning' silk the Winterslow folk were
spared all painful emotions on the subject, as the wedding took place
at St. Andrew's, Holborn (May-Day morning, 1808), Dr. and Mrs.
Stoddart and Charles and Mary Lamb the chief, perhaps the only guests.
The comedy of the courtship merging into the solemnity of marriage was
the very occasion to put Lamb into one of his wildest moods; "I had
like to have been turned out several times during the ceremony," he
confessed to Southey afterwards. "Anything awful makes me laugh. I
misbehaved once at a funeral. Yet can I read about these ceremonies
with pious and proper feelings. The realities of life only seem the
mockeries."



CHAPTER X.

_Mrs. Leicester's School_.--A Removal.--_Poetry for Children_.

1807-9.--Æt. 43-45.


The _Tales from Shakespeare_ were no sooner finished than Mary began,
as her letters show, to cast about for some new scheme which should
realise an equally felicitous and profitable result. This time she
drew upon her own invention: and in about a year a little volume of
tales for children was written, called _Mrs. Leicester's School_, to
which Charles also contributed. The stories, ten in number, seven by
Mary and three by her brother, are strung on a connecting thread by
means of an introductory DEDICATION TO THE YOUNG LADIES AT AMWELL
SCHOOL, who are supposed to beguile the dreariness of the first
evening at a new school by each telling the story of her own life, at
the suggestion of a friendly governess who constitutes herself their
"historiographer."

There is little or no invention in these tales; but a "tenderness of
feeling and a delicacy of taste"--the praise is Coleridge's--which
lift them quite above the ordinary level of children's stories. And in
no way are these qualities shown more than in the treatment of the
lights and shades--the failings and the virtues--of the little folk,
which appear in due and natural proportion; but the faults are treated
in a kindly, indulgent spirit, not spitefully enhanced as foils to
shining virtue, after the manner of some even of the best writers for
children. There are no unlovely impersonations of naughtiness pure and
simple, nor any equally unloveable patterns of priggish perfection.
But the sweetest touches are in the portrayal of the attitude of a
very young mind towards death, affecting from its very incapacity for
grief, or indeed for any kind of realisation, as in this story of
_Elizabeth Villiers_ for instance:--

"The first thing I can remember was my father teaching me the alphabet
from the letters on a tombstone that stood at the head of my mother's
grave. I used to tap at my father's study door: I think I now hear him
say, 'Who is there? What do you want, little girl?' 'Go and see mamma.
Go and learn pretty letters.' Many times in the day would my father
lay aside his books and his papers to lead me to this spot, and make
me point to the letters, and then set me to spell syllables and words:
in this manner, the epitaph on my mother's tomb being my primer and my
spelling-book, I learned to read.

"I was one day sitting on a step placed across the churchyard stile,
when a gentleman passing by heard me distinctly repeat the letters
which formed my mother's name and then say _Elizabeth Villiers_ with a
firm tone as if I had performed some great matter. This gentleman was
my Uncle James, my mother's brother: he was a lieutenant in the navy,
and had left England a few weeks after the marriage of my father and
mother, and now returned home from a long sea-voyage, he was coming to
visit my mother--no tidings of her decease having reached him, though
she had been dead more than a twelvemonth.

"When my uncle saw me sitting on the stile, and heard me pronounce my
mother's name, he looked earnestly in my face and began to fancy a
resemblance to his sister, and to think I might be her child. I was
too intent on my employment to notice him, and went spelling on. 'Who
has taught you to spell so prettily, my little maid?' said my uncle.
'Mamma,' I replied; for I had an idea that the words on the tombstone
were somehow a part of mamma, and that she had taught me. 'And who is
mamma?' asked my uncle. 'Elizabeth Villiers,' I replied; and then my
uncle called me his dear little niece and said he would go with me to
mamma: he took hold of my hand intending to lead me home, delighted
that he had found out who I was, because he imagined it would be such
a pleasant surprise to his sister to see her little daughter bringing
home her long-lost sailor uncle.

"I agreed to take him to mamma, but we had a dispute about the way
thither. My uncle was for going along the road which led directly up
to our house: I pointed to the churchyard and said that was the way to
mamma. Though impatient of any delay he was not willing to contest the
point with his new relation; therefore he lifted me over the stile,
and was then going to take me along the path to a gate he knew was at
the end of our garden; but no, I would not go that way neither:
letting go his hand I said, 'You do not know the way--I will show
you'; and making what haste I could among the long grass and thistles,
and jumping over the low graves, he said, as he followed what he
called my _wayward steps_--

"'What a positive little soul this niece of mine is! I knew the way to
your mother's house before you were born, child.' At last I stopped at
my mother's grave, and pointing to the tombstone said 'Here is mamma!'
in a voice of exultation as if I had now convinced him I knew the way
best. I looked up in his face to see him acknowledge his mistake; but
oh! what a face of sorrow did I see! I was so frightened that I have
but an imperfect recollection of what followed. I remember I pulled
his coat, and cried 'Sir! sir!' and tried to move him. I knew not what
to do. My mind was in a strange confusion; I thought I had done
something wrong in bringing the gentleman to mamma to make him cry so
sadly, but what it was I could not tell. This grave had always been a
scene of delight to me. In the house my father would often be weary of
my prattle and send me from him; but here he was all my own. I might
say anything and be as frolicsome as I pleased here; all was
cheerfulness and good humour in our visits to mamma, as we called it.
My father would tell me how quietly mamma slept there, and that he and
his little Betsy would one day sleep beside mamma in that grave; and
when I went to bed, as I laid my little head on the pillow I used to
wish I was sleeping in the grave with my papa and mamma, and in my
childish dreams I used to fancy myself there; and it was a place
within the ground, all smooth and soft and green. I never made out any
figure of mamma, but still it was the tombstone and papa and the
smooth green grass, and my head resting on the elbow of my
father."....

In the story called _The Father's Wedding Day_, the same strain of
feeling is developed in a somewhat different way, but with a like
truth. Landor praised it with such genial yet whimsical extravagance
as almost defeats itself, in a letter to Crabb Robinson written in
1831:--"It is now several days since I read the book you recommended
to me, _Mrs. Leicester's School_, and I feel as if I owed you a debt
in deferring to thank you for many hours of exquisite delight. Never
have I read anything in prose so many times over within so short a
space of time as _The Father's Wedding Day_. Most people, I
understand, prefer the first tale--in truth a very admirable one--but
others could have written it. Show me the man or woman, modern or
ancient, who could have written this one sentence: 'When I was dressed
in my new frock, I wished poor mamma was alive, to see how fine I was
on papa's wedding day; and I ran to my favorite station at her bedroom
door.' How natural in a little girl is this incongruity--this
impossibility! Richardson would have given his Clarissa and Rousseau
his Heloïse to have imagined it. A fresh source of the pathetic bursts
out before us, and not a bitter one. If your Germans can show us
anything comparable to what I have transcribed, I would almost undergo
a year's gurgle of their language for it. The story is admirable
throughout--incomparable, inimitable."

The second tale,--_Louisa Manners, or the Farm House_, has already
been spoken of (p. 9); for in Louisa's pretty prattle we have a
reminiscence of Mary's happiest childish days among "the Brutons and
the Gladmans" in Hertfordshire; and in _Margaret Green, or the Young
Mahometan_ (pp. 10-16), of her more sombre experiences with
Grandmother Field at Blakesware.

The Tales contributed by Charles Lamb are _Maria Howe, or the Effect
of Witch Stories_, which contains a weird and wonderful portrait of
Aunt Hetty; _Susan Yates, or First Going to Church_ (see pp. 2-3), and
_Arabella Hardy, or the Sea Voyage_.

It may be worth noting that Mary signs her little prelude, the
_Dedication to the Young Ladies_, with the initials of her
boy-favourite Martin Burney; a pretty indication of affection for him.

Many years after the appearance of _Mrs. Leicester's School_,
Coleridge said to Allsop: "It at once soothes and amuses me to
think--nay, to know--that the time will come when this little volume
of my dear and well-nigh oldest friend, Mary Lamb, will be not only
enjoyed but acknowledged as a rich jewel in the treasury of our
permanent English literature; and I cannot help running over in my
mind the long list of celebrated writers, astonishing geniuses,
Novels, Romances, Poems, Histories, and dense Political Economy
quartos which, compared with _Mrs. Leicester's School_, will be
remembered as often and prized as highly as Wilkie's and Glover's
_Epics_ and Lord Bolingbroke's _Philosophics_ compared with _Robinson
Crusoe_."

But a not unimportant question is--What have the little folk thought?
The answer is incontrovertible. The first edition sold out
immediately, and four more were called for in the course of five
years. It has continued in fair demand ever since; though there have
not been anything like so many recent reprints as of the _Tales from
Shakespeare_. It is one of those children's books which to re-open in
after life is like revisiting some sunny old garden, some favourite
haunt of childhood where every nook and cranny seems familiar, and
calls up a thousand pleasant memories.

_Mrs. Leicester's School_ was published at Godwin's Juvenile Library,
Skinner Street, Christmas 1808; and, stimulated by its immediate
success and by Godwin's encouragement, Mary once more set to work,
this time to try her hand in verse.

But, meanwhile, came the domestic upset of a removal, nay of two. The
landlord of the rooms in Mitre Court Building wanted them for himself,
and so the Lambs had to quit. March 28, 1809, Charles writes to
Manning: "While I think on it let me tell you we are moved. Don't come
any more to Mitre Court Buildings. We are at 34 Southampton Buildings,
Chancery Lane, and shall be here till about the end of May; then we
remove to No. 4, Inner Temple Lane, where I mean to live and die; for
I have such a horror of moving that I would not take a benefice from
the king if I was not indulged with non-residence. What a dislocation
of comfort is comprised in that word 'moving.' Such a heap of little
nasty things, after you think all is got into the cart: old
dredging-boxes, worn-out brushes, gallipots, vials, things that it is
impossible the most necessitous person can ever want, but which the
women who preside on these occasions will not leave behind if it was
to save your soul. They'd keep the cart ten minutes to stow in dirty
pipes and broken matches to show their economy. Then you can find
nothing you want for many days after you get into your new lodgings.
You must comb your hair with your fingers, wash your hands without
soap, go about in dirty gaiters. Were I Diogenes I would not move out
of a kilderkin into a hogshead, though the first had had nothing but
small beer in it, and the second reeked claret."

The unwonted stress of continuous literary work and the turmoil and
fatigue of a double removal produced the effect that might have been
anticipated on Mary. In June (1809) Lamb wrote to Coleridge of his
change "to more commodious quarters. I have two rooms on the third
floor," he continues, "and five rooms above, with an inner staircase
to myself, new painted and all for £30 a year! I came into them on
Saturday week; and on Monday following Mary was taken ill with the
fatigue of moving; and affected I believe by the novelty of the house,
she could not sleep, and I am left alone with a maid quite a stranger
to me, and she has a month or two's sad distraction to go through.
What sad large pieces it cuts out of life!--out of _her_ life, who is
getting rather old; and we may not have many years to live together. I
am weaker, and bear it worse than I ever did. But I hope we shall be
comfortable by-and-by. The rooms are delicious, and the best look
backwards into Hare Court where there is a pump always going. Just now
it is dry. Hare Court trees come in at the window, so that 'tis like
living in a garden. I try to persuade myself it is much pleasanter
than Mitre Court; but alas! the household gods are slow to come in a
new mansion. They are in their infancy to me; I do not feel them yet;
no hearth has blazed to them yet. How I hate and dread new places!...
Let me hear from some of you, for I am desolate. I shall have to send
you, in a week or two, two volumes of juvenile poetry done by Mary and
me within the last six months, and that tale in prose which Wordsworth
so much liked, which was published at Christmas with nine others by
us, and has reached a second edition. There's for you! We have almost
worked ourselves out of child's work, and I don't know what to do....
Our little poems are but humble, but they have no name. You must read
them, remembering they were task work; and perhaps you will admire the
number of subjects, all of children, picked out by an old bachelor and
an old maid. Many parents would not have found so many."

Lamb left his friends to guess which were his and which Mary's. Were
it a question of their prose the task were easy. The brother's "witty
delicacy" of style, the gentle irony under which was hid his deep
wisdom, the frolicsome, fantastic humours that often veiled his
tenderness, are individual, unique. But in verse, and especially in a
little volume of "task-work," those fragments of Mary's which he
quotes in his letters show them to have been more similar and equal.
It is certain only that _The Three Friends_, _Queen Oriana's Dream_,
and the lines _To a River in which a Child was Drowned_ were his, and
that his total share was "one-third in quantity of the whole." Also
that _The Two Boys_ (reprinted by Lamb in his _Detached Thoughts on
Books and Reading_), _David in the Cave of Adullam_, and _The First
Tooth_ are certainly Mary's. Through all there breathes a sweet and
wise spirit; but sometimes, and no doubt on Mary's part, the desire to
enforce a moral is too obtrusive, and the teaching too direct, though
always it is of a high and generous kind; never pragmatic and
pharisaic after the manner of Dr. Watts. That difficult art of
artlessness and perfect simplicity, as in Blake's _Songs of
Innocence_, which a child's mind demands and a mature mind loves, is
rarely attained. Yet I think _The Beasts in the Tower_, _Crumbs to the
Birds_, _Motes in the Sunbeam_, _The Coffee Slips_, _The Broken Doll_,
_The Books and the Sparrow_, _Blindness_, _The Two Boys_, and others
not a few, must have been favourites in many a nursery.

_The Text_, in which a self-satisfied little gentleman who listens to
and remembers all the sermon is contrasted, much to his disadvantage,
with his sister who did not hear a word, because her heart was full of
affectionate longing to make up a quarrel they had had outside the
church-door,--is very pretty in a moral, if not in a musical point of
view. This and the three examples which I subjoin were certainly
Mary's. The lullaby calls up a picture of her as a sad child nursing
her little Charles, though he was no orphan:

    NURSING.

    O hush, my little baby brother;
    Sleep, my little baby brother;
      Sleep, my love, upon my knee.
    What though, dear child, we've lost our mother;
      That can never trouble thee.

    You are but ten weeks old to-morrow:
      What can _you_ know of our loss?
    The house is full enough of sorrow,
      Little baby, don't be cross.

    Peace! cry not so, my dearest love;
      Hush, my baby-bird, lie still;
    He's quiet now, he does not move,
      Fast asleep is little Will.

    My only solace, only joy,
      Since the sad day I lost my mother,
    Is nursing her own Willy boy,
      My little orphan brother.

The gentle raillery of the next seems equally characteristic of
Mary:--

    FEIGNED COURAGE.

    Horatio, of ideal courage vain,
    Was flourishing in air his father's cane,
    And, as the fumes of valour swelled his pate,
    Now thought himself _this_ hero, and now _that_:
    "And now," he cried, "I will Achilles be,
    My sword I brandish; see, the Trojans flee.
    Now I'll be Hector, when his angry blade
    A lane through heaps of slaughtered Grecians made!
    And now, by deeds still braver, I'll evince
    I am no less than Edward the Black Prince:
    Give way, ye coward French."--As thus he spoke,
    And aimed in fancy a sufficient stroke
    To fix the fate of Cressy or Poictiers
    (The Muse relates the hero's fate with tears);
    He struck his milk-white hand against a nail,
    Sees his own blood, and feels his courage fail.
    Ah! where is now that boasted valour flown,
    That in the tented field so late was shown?
    Achilles weeps, great Hector hangs the head,
    And the Black Prince goes whimpering to bed!

The last is so pretty a little song it deserves to be fitted with an
appropriate melody:--

    CRUMBS TO THE BIRDS.

    A bird appears a thoughtless thing,
    He's ever living on the wing,
    And keeps up such a carolling,
    That little else to do but sing
        A man would guess had he.
    No doubt he has his little cares,
    And very hard he often fares,
    The which so patiently he bears,
    That, listening to those cheerful airs,
        Who knows but he may be
    In want of his next meal of seeds?
    I think for _that_ his sweet song pleads.
    If so, his pretty art succeeds,
    I'll scatter there among the weeds
        All the small crumbs I see.

_Poetry for Children, Entirely Original, by the Author of Mrs.
Leicester's School_, as the title-page runs, was published in the
summer of 1809, and the whole of the first edition sold off rapidly;
but instead of being reprinted entire, selections from it
only--twenty-six out of the eighty-four pieces--were incorporated by a
schoolmaster of the name of Mylius in two books called _The First Book
of Poetry_ and _The Poetical Class Book_, issued from the same
Juvenile Library in 1810. These went through many editions, but
ultimately dropped quite out of sight, as the original work had
already done. Writing to Bernard Barton in 1827 Lamb says: "One likes
to have one copy of everything one does. I neglected to keep one of
_Poetry for Children_, the joint production of Mary and me, and it is
not to be had for love or money." Fifty years later such specimens of
these poems as could be gathered from the Mylius collections and from
Lamb's own works, were republished by Mr. W. Carew Hazlitt and also by
Richard Herne Shepherd; when, at last in 1877, there came to hand from
Australia a copy of the original edition: it had been purchased at a
sale of books and furniture at Plymouth in 1866 and thence carried to
Adelaide. It was reprinted entire by Mr. Shepherd (Chatto and Windus,
1878), with a preface from which the foregoing details have been
gathered. A New England publisher early descried the worth of the
_Poetry for Children_; for it was reprinted in Boston--eighty-one
pieces, at least, out of the eighty-four--in 1812. A copy of this
American edition also has recently come to light.

This was Mary's last literary undertaking in book form; but there is
reason to think she wrote occasional articles for periodicals for some
years longer. One such, at any rate, on _Needle-work_, written in
1814, is mentioned by Crabb Robinson, of which more hereafter.



CHAPTER XI.


The Hazlitts again.--Letters to Mrs. Hazlitt, and Two Visits to
Winterslow.--Birth of Hazlitt's Son.

1808-13.--Æt. 44-49.


Hazlitt and his Bride had, for the present, settled down in Sarah's
cottage at Winterslow; so Mary continued to send them every now and
then a pretty budget of gossip:--


"Dec. 10, 1808.

"I hear of you from your brother, but you do not write yourself, nor
does Hazlitt. I beg that one or both of you will amend this fault as
speedily as possible, for I am very anxious to hear of your health....
You cannot think how very much we miss you and H. of a Wednesday
evening. All the glory of the night, I may say, is at an end. Phillips
makes his jokes, and there is none to applaud him; Rickman argues, and
there is no one to oppose him. The worst miss of all to me is that,
when we are in the dismals, there is now no hope of relief from any
quarter whatsoever. Hazlitt was most brilliant, most ornamental as a
Wednesday-man; but he was a more useful one on common days, when he
dropt in after a quarrel or a fit of the glooms. The Sheffington is
quite out now, my brother having got drunk with claret and Tom
Sheridan. This visit and the occasion of it is a profound secret, and
therefore I tell it to nobody but you and Mrs. Reynolds. Through the
medium of Wroughton, there came an invitation and proposal from T. S.
that C. L. should write some scenes in a speaking Pantomime, the other
parts of which Tom now, and his father formerly, have manufactured
between them. So, in the Christmas holidays, my brother and his two
great associates, we expect, will be all three damned together, that
is, I mean, if Charles' share, which is done and sent in, is accepted.

"I left this unfinished yesterday in the hope that my brother would
have done it for me; his reason for refusing me was 'no exquisite
reason'; for it was because he must write a letter to Manning in three
or four weeks, and therefore he could not be always writing letters,
he said. I wanted him to tell your husband about a great work which
Godwin is going to publish, [an _Essay on Sepulchres_] to enlighten
the world once more, and I shall not be able to make out what it is.
He (Godwin) took his usual walk one evening, a fortnight since, to the
end of Hatton Garden and back again. During that walk a thought came
into his mind which he instantly set down and improved upon till he
brought it, in seven or eight days, into the compass of a reasonable
sized pamphlet. To propose a subscription to all well-disposed people
to raise a certain sum of money, to be expended in the care of a cheap
monument for the former and the future great dead men--the monument to
be a white cross with a wooden slab at the end, telling their names
and qualifications. This wooden slab and white cross to be perpetuated
to the end of time. To survive the fall of empires and the destruction
of cities by means of a map which was, in case of an insurrection
among the people, or any other cause by which a city or country may be
destroyed, to be carefully preserved, and then when things got again
into their usual order, the white-cross-wooden-slab-makers were to go
to work again and set them in their former places. This, as nearly as
I can tell you, is the sum and substance of it; but it is written
remarkably well, in his very best manner, for the proposal (which
seems to me very like throwing salt on a sparrow's tail to catch him)
occupies but half a page, which is followed by very fine writing on
the benefits he conjectures would follow if it were done. Very
excellent thoughts on death and on our feelings concerning dead
friends and the advantages an old country has over a new one, even in
the slender memorials we have of great men who once flourished.

"Charles is come home and wants his dinner, and so the dead men must
be no more thought on. Tell us how you go on and how you like
Winterslow and winter evenings. Noales (Knowles) has not got back
again, but he is in better spirits. John Hazlitt was here on
Wednesday, very sober. Our love to Hazlitt.

"There came this morning a printed prospectus from S. T. Coleridge,
Grasmere, of a weekly paper to be called _The Friend_--a flaming
Prospectus--I have no time to give the heads of it--to commence first
Saturday in January. There came also a notice of a Turkey from Mr.
Clarkson, which I am more sanguine in expecting the accomplishment of
than I am of Coleridge's prophecy."

A few weeks after the date of this letter Sarah had a little son. He
lived but six months; just long enough for his father's restless,
dissatisfied heart to taste for once the sweetness of a tie unalloyed
with any bitterness, and the memory of it never faded out. There is a
pathetic allusion in one of his latest essays to a visit to the
neglected spot where the baby was laid, and where still "as the
nettles wave in a corner of the churchyard over his little grave, the
welcome breeze helps to refresh me and ease the tightness at my
breast."

In March of this year, too, died one of the most conspicuous members of
Lamb's circle, Thomas Holcroft; dear to Godwin, but not, perhaps, a
great favourite with the Lambs. He was too dogmatic and disputatious,--a
man who would pull you up at every turn for a definition, which, as
Coleridge said, was like setting up perpetual turnpikes along the road
to truth. Hazlitt undertook to write his life.

The visit to Winterslow which had been so often talked of before
Sarah's marriage was again under discussion and, on June 2nd, Mary,
full of thoughtful consideration for her hosts that were to be, writes
jointly with Martin Burney:--

"'You may write to Hazlitt that I will _certainly_ go to Winterslow,
as my father has agreed to give me £5 to bear my expences, and has
given leave that I may stop till that is spent, leaving enough to
defray my carriage on 14th July.'

"So far Martin has written, and further than that I can give you no
intelligence, for I do not yet know Phillips' intentions; nor can I
tell you the exact time when we can come; nor can I positively say we
shall come at all; for we have scruples of conscience about there
being so many of us. Martin says if you can borrow a blanket or two he
can sleep on the floor without either bed or mattress, which would
save his expenses at the Hut; for if Phillips breakfasts there he must
do so too, which would swallow up all his money. And he and I have
calculated that if he has no inn expenses he may as well spare that
money to give you for a part of his roast beef. We can spare you also
just five pounds. You are not to say this to Hazlitt, lest his
delicacy should be alarmed; but I tell you what Martin and I have
planned that if you happed to be empty-pursed at this time, you may
think it as well to make him up a bed in the best kitchen. I think it
very probable that Phillips will come, and if you do not like such a
crowd of us, for they both talk of staying a whole month, tell me so,
and we will put off our visit till next summer.

"Thank you very much for the good work you have done for me. Mrs.
Stoddart also thanks you for the gloves. How often must I tell you
never to do any needle-work for anybody but me?...

"I cannot write any more, for we have got a noble life of Lord Nelson,
lent us for a short time by my poor relation the bookbinder, and I
want to read as much of it as I can."

The death of the baby and one of Mary's severe attacks of illness
combined to postpone the visit till autumn; but, when it did come to
pass, it completely restored her, and left lasting remembrance of its
pleasures both with hosts and guests. Charles tells Coleridge (Oct.
30): "The journey has been of infinite service to Mary. We have had
nothing but sunshiny days, and daily walks from eight to twenty miles
a day. Have seen Wilton, Salisbury, Stonehenge, &c. Her illness lasted
just six weeks; it left her weak, but the country has made us whole."

And Mary herself wrote to Sarah (Nov. 7): "The dear, quiet, lazy,
delicious month we spent with you is remembered by me with such regret
that I feel quite discontented and Winterslow-sick. I assure you I
never passed such a pleasant time in the country in my life, both in
the house and out of it, the card-playing quarrels, and a few gaspings
for breath after your swift footsteps up the high hills excepted, and
those drawbacks are not unpleasant in the recollection. We have got
some salt butter to make our toast seem like yours, and we have tried
to eat meat suppers, but that would not do, for we left our appetites
behind us; and the dry loaf which offended you now comes in at night
unaccompanied; but sorry I am to add, it is soon followed by the pipe
and the gin-bottle. We smoked the very first night of our arrival.

"Great news! I have just been interrupted by Mr. Dawe, who comes to
tell me he was yesterday elected an Academician. He said none of his
own friends voted for him; he got it by strangers who were pleased
with his picture of Mrs. White. Charles says he does not believe
Northcote ever voted for the admission of any one. Though a very cold
day, Dawe was in a prodigious sweat for joy at his good fortune.

"More great news! My beautiful green curtains were put up yesterday,
and all the doors listed with green baize, and four new boards put to
the coal-hole, and fastening hasps put to the window, and my died
Manning silk cut out.

"Yesterday was an eventful day, for yesterday, too, Martin Burney was
to be examined by Lord Eldon, previous to his being admitted as an
attorney; but he has not been here yet to announce his success.

"I carried the baby-caps to Mrs. John Hazlitt. She was much pleased
and vastly thankful. Mr. H. got fifty-four guineas at Rochester, and
has now several pictures in hand.

"I am going to tell you a secret, for ---- says she would be sorry to
have it talked of. One night ---- came home from the ale-house,
bringing with him a great rough, ill-looking fellow, whom he
introduced to ---- as Mr. Brown, a gentleman he had hired as a
mad-keeper to take care of him at forty pounds a year, being ten
pounds under the usual price for keepers, which sum Mr. Brown had
agreed to remit out of pure friendship. It was with great difficulty
and by threatening to call in the aid of a watchman and constables
that ---- could prevail on Mr. Brown to leave the house.

"We had a good chearful meeting on Wednesday; much talk of Winterslow,
its woods and its nice sunflowers. I did not so much like Phillips at
Winterslow as I now like him for having been with us at Winterslow. We
roasted the last of his 'beach of oily nut prolific' on Friday at the
Captain's. Nurse is now established in Paradise, _alias_ the incurable
ward of Westminster Hospital. I have seen her sitting in most superb
state, surrounded by her seven incurable companions. They call each
other ladies. Nurse looks as if she would be considered as the first
lady in the ward; only one seemed like to rival her in dignity.

"A man in the India House has resigned, by which Charles will get
twenty pounds a year, and White has prevailed upon him to write some
more lottery puffs. If that ends in smoke, the twenty pounds is a sure
card, and has made us very joyful. I continue very well and return you
my sincere thanks for my good health and improved looks, which have
almost made Mrs. Godwin die with envy; she longs to come to Winterslow
as much as the spiteful elder sister did to go to the well for a gift
to spit diamonds.

"Jane and I have agreed to boil a round of beef for your suppers when
you come to town again. She, Jane, broke two of the Hogarth glasses
while we were away; whereat I made a great noise.

"Farewell. Love to William, and Charles' love and good wishes for the
speedy arrival of the Life of Holcroft and the bearer thereof. Charles
told Mrs. Godwin Hazlitt had found a well in his garden which, water
being scarce in your country, would bring him in two hundred a year;
and she came in great haste the next morning to ask me if it were
true."

Hazlitt, too, remembered to the end of his life those golden autumn
days; "Lamb among the villagers like the most capricious poet Ovid
among the Goths;" the evening walks with him and Mary to look at 'the
Claude Lorraine skies melting from azure into purple and gold, and to
gather mushrooms that sprung up at our feet to throw into our hashed
mutton at supper.'

When Lamb called to congratulate Mr. Dawe on his good fortune his
housekeeper seemed embarrassed, owned that her master was alone, but
ushered in the visitor with reluctance. For why? "At his easel stood
D. with an immense spread of canvas before him, and by his side--a
live goose. Under the rose he informed me that he had undertaken to
paint a transparency for Vauxhall, against an expected visit of the
Allied Sovereigns. I smiled at an engagement so derogatory to his
new-born honours; but a contempt of small gains was never one of D.'s
foibles. My eyes beheld crude forms of warriors, kings rising under
his brush upon this interminable stretch of cloth. The Volga, the Don,
the Dnieper were there, or their representative river gods, and Father
Thames clubbed urns with the Vistula. Glory with her dazzling eagle
was not absent, nor Fame nor Victory. The shade of Rubens might have
evoked the mighty allegories. But what was the goose? He was evidently
sitting for a something. D. at last informed me that he could not
introduce the Royal Thames without his _swans_. That he had inquired
the price of a live swan, and it being more than he was prepared to
give for it, he had bargained with the poulterer for the _next thing
to it_, adding significantly that it would do to roast after it had
served its turn to paint swans by." (Lamb's _Recollections of a Royal
Academician_.)

The following year the visit to Winterslow was repeated, but not with
the same happy results. In a letter written during his stay to Mr.
Basil Montague Charles says: "My head has received such a shock by an
all-night journey on the top of the coach that I shall have enough to
do to nurse it into its natural pace before I go home. I must devote
myself to imbecility; I must be gloriously useless while I stay here.
The city of Salisbury is full of weeping and wailing. The bank has
stopped payment, and everybody in the town kept money at it or has got
some of its notes. Some have lost all they had in the world. It is the
next thing to seeing a city with the plague within its walls; and I do
suppose it to be the unhappiest county in England this, where I am
making holiday. We purpose setting out for Oxford Tuesday fortnight,
and coming thereby home. But no more night-travelling; my head is sore
(understand it of the inside) with that deduction from my natural rest
which I suffered coming down. Neither Mary nor I can spare a morsel of
our rest, it is incumbent on us to be misers of it."

The visit to Oxford was paid, Hazlitt accompanying them and much
enhancing the enjoyment of it, especially of a visit to the picture
gallery at Blenheim. "But our pleasant excursion has ended sadly for
one of us," he tells Hazlitt on his return. "My sister got home very
well (I was very ill on the journey) and continued so till Monday
night, when her complaint came on, and she is now absent from home. I
think I shall be mad if I take any more journeys with two experiences
against it. I have lost all wish for sights."

It was a long attack; at the end of October Mary was still "very weak
and low-spirited," and there were domestic misadventures not
calculated to improve matters.

"We are in a pickle," says Charles to Wordsworth. "Mary, from her
affectation of physiognomy, has hired a stupid, big, country wench,
who looked honest as she thought, and has been doing her work some
days, but without eating; and now it comes out that she was ill when
she came, with lifting her mother about (who is now with God) when she
was dying, and with riding up from Norfolk four days and nights in the
waggon, and now she lies in her bed a dead weight upon our humanity,
incapable of getting up, refusing to go to an hospital, having nobody
in town but a poor asthmatic uncle, and she seems to have made up her
mind to take her flight to heaven from our bed. Oh for the little
wheelbarrow which trundled the hunchback from door to door to try the
various charities of different professions of mankind! Here's her
uncle just crawled up, he is far liker death than she. In this
perplexity such topics as Spanish papers and Monkhouses sink into
insignificance. What shall we do?"

The perplexity seems to have cleared itself up somehow speedily, for
in a week's time Mary herself wrote to Mrs. Hazlitt, not very
cheerfully, but with no allusion to this particular disaster:--


"Nov. 30, 1810.

"I have taken a large sheet of paper, as if I were going to write a
long letter; but that is by no means my intention, for I have only
time to write three lines to notify what I ought to have done the
moment I received your welcome letter; namely, that I shall be very
much joyed to see you. Every morning lately I have been expecting to
see you drop in, even before your letter came; and I have been setting
my wits to work to think how to make you as comfortable as the nature
of our inhospitable habits will admit. I must work while you are here,
and I have been slaving very hard to get through with something before
you come, that I may be quite in the way of it, and not teize you with
complaints all day that I do not know what to do.

"I am very sorry to hear of your mischance. Mrs. Rickman has just
buried her youngest child. I am glad I am an old maid, for you see
there is nothing but misfortunes in the marriage state. Charles was
drunk last night, and drunk the night before; which night before was
at Godwin's, where we went, at a short summons from Mr. G., to play a
solitary rubber, which was interrupted by the entrance of Mr. and
little Mrs. Liston; and after them came Henry Robinson, who is now
domesticated at Mr. Godwin's fireside, and likely to become a
formidable rival to Tommy Turner. We finished there at twelve o'clock,
Charles and Liston brim full of gin and water and snuff, after which
Henry Robinson spent a long evening by our fireside at home, and there
was much gin and water drunk, albeit only one of the party partook of
it, and H. R. professed himself highly indebted to Charles for the
useful information he gave him on sundry matters of taste and
imagination, even after Charles could not speak plain for tipsiness.
But still he swallowed the flattery and the spirits as savourily as
Robinson did his cold water.

"Last night was to be a night, but it was not. There was a certain son
of one of Martin's employers, one young Mr. Blake, to do whom honour
Mrs. Burney brought forth, first rum, then a single bottle of
champaine, long kept in her secret hoard; then two bottles of her best
currant wine, which she keeps for Mrs. Rickman, came out; and Charles
partook liberally of all these beverages, while Mr. Young Blake and
Mr. Ireton talked of high matters, such as the merits of the Whip
Club, and the merits of red and white champaine. Do I spell that last
word right? Rickman was not there, so Ireton had it all his own way.

"The alternating Wednesdays will chop off one day in the week from
your jolly days, and I do not know how we shall make it up to you, but
I will contrive the best I can. Phillips comes again pretty regularly,
to the great joy of Mrs Reynolds. Once more she hears the well-loved
sounds of 'How do you do, Mrs. Reynolds? and how does Miss Chambers
do?'

"I have spun out my three lines amazingly; now for family news. Your
brother's little twins are not dead, but Mrs. John Hazlitt and her
baby may be for anything I know to the contrary, for I have not been
there for a prodigious long time. Mrs. Holcroft still goes about from
Nicholson to Tuthill, and Tuthill to Godwin, and from Godwin to
Nicholson, to consult on the publication or no publication of the life
of the good man, her husband. It is called _The Life Everlasting_. How
does that same Life go on in your parts? Goodbye, God bless you. I
shall be glad to see you when you come this way.

"I am going in great haste to see Mrs. Clarkson, for I must get back
to dinner, which I have hardly time to do. I wish that dear, good,
amiable woman would go out of town. I thought she was clean gone, and
yesterday there was a consultation of physicians held at her house to
see if they could keep her among them here a few weeks longer."

The concluding volumes of this same _Life Everlasting_ remained
unprinted somewhere in a damp hamper, Mr. Carew Hazlitt tells us: for,
in truth, the admirable fragment of autobiography Holcroft dictated on
his death-bed contained the cream of the matter, and was all the
public cared to listen to.

Mary continuing "in a feeble and tottering condition," Charles found
it needful to make a decisive stand on her behalf against the
exhaustion and excitement of incessant company, and especially against
the disturbed rest, which resulted from sharing her room with a guest.


"Nov. 28, 1810.

"Mary has been very ill indeed since you saw her," he wrote to
Hazlitt, "as ill as she can be to remain at home. But she is a good
deal better now, owing to a very careful regimen. She drinks nothing
but water, and never goes out; she does not even go to the Captain's.
Her indisposition has been ever since that night you left town, the
night Miss Wordsworth came. Her coming, and that d----d Mrs. Godwin
coming and staying so late that night so overset her that she lay
broad awake all that night, and it was by a miracle that she escaped a
very bad illness, which I thoroughly expected. I have made up my mind
that she shall never have any one in the house again with her, and
that no one shall sleep with her, not even for a night; for it is a
very serious thing to be always living with a kind of fever upon her,
and therefore I am sure you will take it in good part if I say that if
Mrs. Hazlitt comes to town at any time, however glad we shall be to
see her in the day-time, I cannot ask her to spend a night under our
roof. Some decision we must come to; for the harassing fever that we
have both been in, owing to Miss Wordsworth's coming, is not to be
borne, and I would rather be dead than so alive. However, owing to a
regimen and medicines which Tuthill has given her, who very kindly
volunteered the care of her, she is a great deal quieter, though too
much harassed by company, who cannot or will not see how late hours
and Society teaze her."

The next letter to Sarah is a cheerful one, as the occasion demanded.
It is also the last to her that has been preserved, probably the last
that was written; for, a few months later, Hazlitt fairly launched
himself on a literary career in London, and took up his abode next
door to Jeremy Bentham, at 19 York Street, Westminster,--once Milton's
house.


"Oct. 2, 1811.

"I have been a long time anxiously expecting the happy news that I
have just received. I address you because, as the letter has been
lying some days at the India House, I hope you are able to sit up and
read my congratulations on the little live boy you have been so many
years wishing for. As we old women say, 'May he live to be a great
comfort to you!' I never knew an event of the kind that gave me so
much pleasure as the little long-looked-for-come-at-last's arrival;
and I rejoice to hear his honour has begun to suck. The word was not
distinctly written, and I was a long time making out the solemn fact.
I hope to hear from you soon, for I am anxious to know if your nursing
labours are attended with any difficulties. I wish you a happy
_getting-up_ and a merry christening!

"Charles sends his love; perhaps, though, he will write a scrap to
Hazlitt at the end. He is now looking over me. He is always in my way,
for he has had a month's holiday at home. But I am happy to say they
end on Monday, when mine begin, for I am going to pass a week at
Richmond with Mrs. Burney. She has been dying, but she went to the
Isle of Wight and recovered once more, and she is finishing her
recovery at Richmond. When there, I mean to read novels and play at
Piquet all day long."

"My blessing and heaven's be upon him," added Charles, "and make him
like his father, with something a better temper and a smoother head of
hair, and then all the men and women must love him."...



CHAPTER XII.

An Essay on Needle-work.

1814.--Æt. 50.


Towards the end of 1814 Crabb Robinson called on Mary Lamb and found
her suffering from great fatigue after writing an article on
needle-work for the _British Lady's Magazine_, which was just about to
start on a higher basis than its predecessors. It undertook to provide
something better than the usual fashion plates, silly tales and
sillier verses then generally thought suitable for women; and, to
judge by the early numbers, the editor kept the promise of his
introductory address and deserved a longer lease of life for his
magazine than it obtained.

Mary's little essay appeared in the number for April 1815; and is on
many accounts interesting. It contains several autobiographic touches;
it is the only known instance in which she has addressed herself to
full-grown readers, and it is sagacious and far-seeing. For Mary does
not treat of needle-work as an art, but as a factor in social life.
She pleads both for the sake of the bodily welfare of the many
thousands of women who have to earn their bread by it, and of the
mental well-being of those who have not so to do, that it should be
regarded, like any other mechanical art, as a thing to be done for
hire; and that what a woman _does_ work at should be real work,
something, that is, which yields a return either of mental or of
pecuniary profit. She also exposes the fallacy of the time-honoured
maxim "a penny saved is a penny earned," by the ruthless logic of
experience. But the reader shall judge for himself; the _Magazine_ has
become so rare a book that I will here subjoin the little essay in
full:--


ON NEEDLE-WORK.

MR. EDITOR,

"In early life I passed eleven years in the exercise of my needle for
a livelihood. Will you allow me to address your readers, among whom
might perhaps be found some of the kind patronesses of my former
humble labours, on a subject widely connected with female life--the
state of needle-work in this country.

"To lighten the heavy burthen which many ladies impose upon themselves
is one object which I have in view; but, I confess, my strongest
motive is to excite attention towards the industrious sisterhood to
which I once belonged.

"From books I have been informed of the fact upon which _The British
Lady's Magazine_ chiefly founds its pretensions; namely, that women
have, of late, been rapidly advancing in intellectual improvement.
Much may have been gained in this way, indirectly, for that class of
females for whom I wish to plead. Needle-work and intellectual
improvement are naturally in a state of warfare. But I am afraid the
root of the evil has not, as yet, been struck at. Work-women of every
description were never in so much distress for want of employment.

"Among the present circle of my acquaintance I am proud to rank many
that may truly be called respectable; nor do the female part of them
in their mental attainments at all disprove the prevailing opinion of
that intellectual progression which you have taken as the basis of
your work; yet I affirm that I know not a single family where there is
not some essential drawback to its comfort which may be traced to
needle-work _done at home_, as the phrase is for all needle-work
performed in a family by some of its own members, and for which no
remuneration in money is received or expected.

"In money alone, did I say? I would appeal to all the fair votaries of
voluntary housewifery whether, in the matter of conscience, any one of
them ever thought she had done as much needle-work as she ought to
have done. Even fancy-work, the fairest of the tribe! How delightful
the arrangement of her materials! The fixing upon her happiest
pattern, how pleasing an anxiety! How cheerful the commencement of the
labour she enjoys! But that lady must be a true lover of the art, and
so industrious a pursuer of a predetermined purpose, that it were pity
her energy should not have been directed to some wiser end, who can
affirm she neither feels weariness during the execution of a fancy
piece, nor takes more time than she had calculated for the performance.

"Is it too bold an attempt to persuade your readers that it would
prove an incalculable addition to general happiness and the domestic
comfort of both sexes, if needle-work were never practised but for a
remuneration in money? As nearly, however, as this desirable thing can
be effected, so much more nearly will woman be upon an equality with
men as far as respects the mere enjoyment of life. As far as that
goes, I believe it is every woman's opinion that the condition of men
is far superior to her own.

"'They can do what they like,' we say. Do not these words generally
mean they have time to seek out whatever amusements suit their tastes?
We dare not tell them we have no time to do this; for if they should
ask in what manner we dispose of our time we should blush to enter
upon a detail of the minutiæ which compose the sum of a woman's daily
employment. Nay, many a lady who allows not herself one quarter of an
hour's positive leisure during her waking hours, considers her own
husband as the most industrious of men if he steadily pursue his
occupation till the hour of dinner, and will be perpetually lamenting
her own idleness.

"_Real business_ and _real leisure_ make up the portions of men's
time:--two sources of happiness which we certainly partake of in a
very inferior degree. To the execution of employments in which the
faculties of the body or mind are called into busy action there must
be a consoling importance attached, which feminine duties (that
generic term for all our business) cannot aspire to.

"In the most meritorious discharges of those duties the highest praise
we can aim at is to be accounted the helpmates of _man_; who, in
return for all he does for us, expects, and justly expects, us to do
all in our power to soften and sweeten life.

"In how many ways is a good woman employed in thought or action
through the day that her _good man_ may be enabled to feel his leisure
hours _real_, _substantial holiday_ and perfect respite from the cares
of business! Not the least part to be done to accomplish this end is
to fit herself to become a conversational companion; that is to say,
she has to study and understand the subjects on which he loves to
talk. This part of our duty, if strictly performed, will be found by
far our hardest part. The disadvantages we labour under from an
education differing from a manly one make the hours in which we _sit
and do nothing_ in men's company too often anything but a relaxation;
although as to pleasure and instruction time so passed may be esteemed
more or less delightful.

"To make a man's home so desirable a place as to preclude his having a
wish to pass his leisure hours at any fireside in preference to his
own, I should humbly take to be the sum and substance of woman's
domestic ambition. I would appeal to our British ladies, who are
generally allowed to be the most jealous and successful of all women
in the pursuit of this object, I would appeal to them who have been
most successful in the performance of this laudable service, in behalf
of father, son, husband or brother, whether an anxious desire to
perform this duty well is not attended with enough of _mental_
exertion, at least, to incline them to the opinion that women may be
more properly ranked among the contributors to than the partakers of
the undisturbed relaxation of men.

"If a family be so well ordered that the master is never called in to
its direction, and yet he perceives comfort and economy well attended
to, the mistress of that family (especially if children form a part of
it), has, I apprehend, as large a share of womanly employment as ought
to satisfy her own sense of duty; even though the needle-book and
thread-case were quite laid aside, and she cheerfully contributed her
part to the slender gains of the corset-maker, the milliner, the
dress-maker, the plain worker, the embroidress and all the numerous
classifications of females supporting themselves by _needle-work_,
that great staple commodity which is alone appropriated to the
self-supporting part of our sex.

"Much has been said and written on the subject of men engrossing to
themselves every occupation and calling. After many years of
observation and reflection I am obliged to acquiesce in the notion
that it cannot well be ordered otherwise.

"If, at the birth of girls, it were possible to foresee in what cases
it would be their fortune to pass a single life, we should soon find
trades wrested from their present occupiers and transferred to the
exclusive possession of our sex. The whole mechanical business of
copying writings in the law department, for instance, might very soon
be transferred with advantage to the poorer sort of women, who, with
very little teaching, would soon beat their rivals of the other sex in
facility and neatness. The parents of female children who were known
to be destined from their birth to maintain themselves through the
whole course of their lives with like certainty as their sons are,
would feel it a duty incumbent on themselves to strengthen the minds,
and even the bodily constitutions, of their girls so circumstanced, by
an education which, without affronting the preconceived habits of
society, might enable them to follow some occupation now considered
above the capacity, or too robust for the constitution of our sex.
Plenty of resources would then lie open for single women to obtain an
independent livelihood, when every parent would be upon the alert to
encroach upon some employment, now engrossed by men, for such of their
daughters as would then be exactly in the same predicament as their
sons now are. Who, for instance, would lay by money to set up his sons
in trade, give premiums and in part maintain them through a long
apprenticeship; or, which men of moderate incomes frequently do,
strain every nerve in order to bring them up to a learned profession;
if it were in a very high degree probable that, by the time they were
twenty years of age, they would be taken from this trade or
profession, and maintained during the remainder of their lives by the
_person whom they should marry_. Yet this is precisely the situation
in which every parent whose income does not very much exceed the
moderate, is placed with respect to his daughters.

"Even where boys have gone through a laborious education, superinducing
habits of steady attention accompanied with the entire conviction that
the business which they learn is to be the source of their future
distinction, may it not be affirmed that the persevering industry
required to accomplish this desirable end causes many a hard struggle
in the minds of young men, even of the most hopeful disposition? What,
then, must be the disadvantages under which a very young woman is
placed who is required to learn a trade, from which she can never
expect to reap any profit, but at the expense of losing that place in
society to the possession of which she may reasonably look forward,
inasmuch as it is by far the most _common lot_, namely, the condition
of a _happy_ English wife?

"As I desire to offer nothing to the consideration of your readers but
what, at least as far as my own observation goes, I consider as truths
confirmed by experience, I will only say that, were I to follow the
bent of my own speculative opinion, I should be inclined to persuade
every female over whom I hoped to have any influence to contribute all
the assistance in her power to those of her own sex who may need it,
in the employments they at present occupy, rather than to force them
into situations now filled wholly by men. With the mere exception of
the profits which they have a right to derive by their needle, I would
take nothing from the industry of man which he already possesses.

"'A penny saved is a penny earned,' is a maxim not true unless the
penny be saved in the same time in which it might have been earned. I,
who have known what it is to work for _money earned_, have since had
much experience in working for _money saved_; and I consider, from the
closest calculation I can make, that a _penny saved_ in that way bears
about a true proportion to a _farthing earned_. I am no advocate for
women who do not depend on themselves for subsistence, proposing to
themselves to _earn money_. My reasons for thinking it not advisable
are too numerous to state--reasons deduced from authentic facts and
strict observations on domestic life in its various shades of comfort.
But if the females of a family _nominally_ supported by the other sex
find it necessary to add something to the common stock, why not
endeavour to do something by which they may produce money _in its true
shape_?

"It would be an excellent plan, attended with very little trouble, to
calculate every evening how much money has been saved by needle-work
_done in the family_, and compare the result with the daily portion of
the yearly income. Nor would it be amiss to make a memorandum of the
time passed in this way, adding also a guess as to what share it has
taken up in the thoughts and conversation. This would be an easy mode
of forming a true notion and getting at the exact worth of this species
of _home_ industry, and perhaps might place it in a different light
from any in which it has hitherto been the fashion to consider it.

"Needle-work taken up as an amusement may not be altogether unamusing.
We are all pretty good judges of what entertains ourselves, but it is
not so easy to pronounce upon what may contribute to the entertainment
of others. At all events, let us not confuse the motives of economy
with those of simple pastime. If _saving_ be no object, and long habit
have rendered needle-work so delightful an avocation that we cannot
think of relinquishing it, there are the good old contrivances in which
our grand-dames were wont to beguile and lose their time--knitting,
knotting netting, carpet-work, and the like ingenious pursuits--those
so often praised but tedious works which are so long in the operation
that purchasing the labour has seldom been thought good economy. Yet,
by a certain fascination, they have been found to chain down the great
to a self-imposed slavery, from which they considerately or haughtily
excused the needy. These may be esteemed lawful and lady-like
amusements. But, if those works more usually denominated useful yield
greater satisfaction, it might be a laudable scruple of conscience,
and no bad test to herself of her own motive, if a lady who had no
absolute need were to give the money so saved to poor needle-women
belonging to those branches of employment from which she has borrowed
these shares of pleasurable labour.

SEMPRONIA."


Had Mary lived now she would, perhaps, have spoken a wiser word than
has yet been uttered on the urgent question of how best to develop,
strengthen, give free and fair scope to that large part of a woman's
nature and field of action which are the same in kind as man's,
without detriment to the remaining qualities and duties peculiar to
her as woman. She told Crabb Robinson that "writing was a most painful
occupation, which only necessity could make her attempt; and that she
had been learning Latin merely to assist her in acquiring a correct
style." But there is no trace of feebleness or confusion in her manner
of grasping a subject; no want of Latin, nor of anything else to
improve her excellent style. She did enough to show that had her brain
not been devastated for weeks and latterly for months in every year by
an access of madness, she would have left, besides her tales for
children, some permanent addition to literature, or given a
recognisable impetus to thought. As it was, Mary relinquished all
attempt at literary work when an increase in Charles' income released
her from the duty of earning; and as her attacks became longer and
more frequent her "fingers grew nervously averse" even to
letter-writing.



CHAPTER XIII.

Letters to Miss Betham and her little Sister.--To Wordsworth.--Manning's
Return.--Coleridge goes to Highgate.--Letter to Miss Hutchinson on
Mary's state.--Removal to Russell Street.--Mary's Letter to Dorothy
Wordsworth.--Lodgings at Dalston.--Death of John Lamb and Captain
Burney.

1815-21.--Æt. 51-57.


In a letter to Southey, dated May 16th, 1815, Lamb says: "Have you
seen Matilda Betham's _Lay of Marie_? I think it very delicately
pretty as to sentiment, &c."

Matilda, the daughter of a country clergyman of ancient lineage
(author of learned and laborious _Genealogical Tables_, &c. &c.), was
a lady of many talents and ambitions; especially of the laudable one,
not so common in those days, to lighten the burthen of a large family
of brothers and sisters by earning her own living. She went up to
London, taught herself miniature painting, exhibited at Somerset
House, gave Shakespeare readings, wrote a _Biographical Dictionary of
Celebrated Women_, contributed verses to the magazines; and, last not
least, by her genuine love of knowledge, and her warm and kindly
heart, won the cordial liking of many men of genius, notably of
Coleridge, Southey, and the Lambs. When this same _Lay of Marie_ was
on the stocks, Mary took an earnest interest in its success, as the
following letter prettily testifies:--

"My brother and myself return you a thousand thanks for your kind
communication. We have read your poem many times over with increased
interest, and very much wish to see you to tell you how highly we have
been pleased with it. May we beg one favour? I keep the manuscript, in
the hope that you will grant it. It is that either now, or when the
whole poem is completed, you will read it over with us. When I say
with _us_, of course I mean Charles. I know that you have many
judicious friends, but I have so often known my brother spy out errors
in a manuscript which has passed through many judicious hands, that I
shall not be easy if you do not permit him to look yours carefully
through with you; and also you _must_ allow him to correct the press
for you. If I knew where to find you I would call upon you. Should you
feel nervous at the idea of meeting Charles in the capacity of a
_severe censor_, give me a line, and I will come to you anywhere and
convince you in five minutes that he is even timid, stammers, and can
scarcely speak for modesty and fear of giving pain when he finds
himself placed in that kind of office. Shall I appoint a time to see
you here when he is from home? I will send him out any time you will
name; indeed I am always naturally alone till four o'clock. If you are
nervous about coming, remember I am equally so about the liberty I
have taken, and shall be till we meet and laugh off our mutual fears."

"I return you by a careful hand the MSS.," wrote Charles. "Did I not
ever love your verses? The domestic half will be a sweet heirloom to
have in the family. 'Tis fragrant with cordiality. What friends you
must have had, or dreamed of having! and what a widow's cruse of
heartiness you have doled among them!"

But as to the correction of the press, that proved a rash suggestion
on Mary's part; for the task came at an untoward time, and Charles had
to write a whimsical-repentant letter, which must have gone far to
atone for his shortcoming:--

"All this while I have been tormenting myself with the thought of having
been ungracious to you, and you have been all the while accusing
yourself. Let us absolve one another and be quiet. My head is in such a
state from incapacity for business, that I certainly know it to be my
duty not to undertake the veriest trifle in addition. I hardly know how
I can go on. I have tried to get some redress by explaining my health,
but with no great success. No one can tell how ill I am, because it does
not come out to the exterior of my face, but lies in my skull, deep and
invisible. I wish I was leprous, and black-jaundiced skin-over, or that
all was as well within as my cursed looks. You must not think me worse
than I am. I am determined not to be overset, but to give up business
rather, and get 'em to allow me a trifle for services past. Oh, that I
had been a shoemaker, or a baker, or a man of large independent fortune.
Oh, darling laziness! Heaven of Epicurus! Saint's Everlasting Rest! that
I could drink vast potations of thee through unmeasured Eternity. _Otium
cum vel sine dignitate._ Scandalous, dishonourable, any kind of
_repose_. I stand not upon the _dignified sort_. Accursed, damned desks,
trade, commerce, business. Inventions of that old original busy-body,
brain-working Satan--Sabbathless, restless Satan. A curse relieves; do
you ever try it? A strange letter to write to a lady, but more honeyed
sentences will not distil. I dare not ask who revises in my stead. I
have drawn you into a scrape, and am ashamed, but I know no remedy. My
unwellness must be my apology. God bless you (tho' he curse the India
House and fire it _to the ground_), and may no unkind error creep into
_Marie_. May all its readers like it as well as I do, and everybody
about you like its kind author no worse! Why the devil am I never to
have a chance of scribbling my own free thoughts in verse or prose
again? Why must I write of tea and drugs, and price goods and bales of
indigo? Farewell...."

Miss Betham possessed the further merit of having a charming little
sister, for such she must surely have been to be the cause and the
recipient of such a letter as the following from Mary. Barbara Betham
was then fourteen years old:--


"November 2, 1814.

"It is very long since I have met with such an agreeable surprise as
the sight of your letter, my kind kind young friend, afforded me. Such
a nice letter as it is too; and what a pretty hand you write! I
congratulate you on this attainment with great pleasure, because I
have so often felt the disadvantage of my own wretched handwriting.
You wish for London news. I rely upon your sister Ann for gratifying
you in this respect, yet I have been endeavouring to recollect whom
you might have seen here, and what may have happened to them since,
and this effort has only brought the image of little Barbara Betham,
unconnected with any other person, so strongly before my eyes, that I
seem as if I had no other subject to write upon. Now I think I see you
with your feet propped upon the fender, your two hands spread out upon
your knees--an attitude you always chose when we were in familiar
confidential conversation together--telling me long stories of your
own home, where now you say you are 'moping on with the same thing
every day,' and which then presented nothing but pleasant
recollections to your mind. How well I remember your quiet, steady
face bent over your book. One day, conscience-stricken at having
wasted so much of your precious time in reading, and feeling yourself,
as you prettily said, 'quite useless to me,' you went to my drawers
and hunted out some unhemmed pocket-handkerchiefs, and by no means
could I prevail upon you to resume your story-books till you had
hemmed them all. I remember, too, your teaching my little maid to
read, your sitting with her a whole evening to console her for the
death of her sister, and that she, in her turn, endeavoured to become
a comforter to you, the next evening, when you wept at the sight of
Mrs. Holcroft, from whose school you had recently eloped because you
were not partial to sitting in the stocks. Those tears, and a few you
dropped when my brother teased you about your supposed fondness for an
apple-dumpling, were the only interruptions to the calm contentedness
of your unclouded brow.

"We still remain the same as you left us, neither taller, nor wiser,
or perceptibly older; but three years must have made a great
alteration in you. How very much, dear Barbara, I should like to see
you!

"We still live in Temple Lane, but I am now sitting in a room you
never saw. Soon after you left us we were distressed by the cries of a
cat, which seemed to proceed from the garrets adjoining to ours, and
only separated from ours by a locked door on the farther side of my
brother's bed-room, which you know was the little room at the top of
the kitchen stairs. We had the lock forced, and let poor puss out from
behind a panel of the wainscot, and she lived with us from that time,
for we were in gratitude bound to keep her, as she had introduced us
to four untenanted, unowned rooms, and by degrees we have taken
possession of these unclaimed apartments, first putting up lines to
dry our clothes, then moving my brother's bed into one of these more
commodious than his own rooms; and last winter, my brother being
unable to pursue a work he had begun, owing to the kind interruptions
of friends who were more at leisure than himself, I persuaded him that
he might write at ease in one of these rooms, as he could not then
hear the door-knock, or hear himself denied to be at home, which was
sure to make him call out and convict the poor maid in a fib. Here, I
said, he might be, almost really not at home. So I put in an old
grate, and made him a fire in the largest of these garrets, and
carried in his own table and one chair, and bid him write away and
consider himself as much alone as if he were in a lodging in the midst
of Salisbury Plain, or any other wide, unfrequented place where he
could expect few visitors to break in upon his solitude. I left him
quite delighted with his new acquisition, but in a few hours he came
down again, with a sadly dismal face. He could do nothing, he said,
with those bare white-washed walls before his eyes. He could not write
in that dull unfurnished prison!

"The next day, before he came home from his office, I had gathered up
various bits of old carpeting to cover the floor; and to a little
break the blank look of the bare walls I hung up a few old prints that
used to ornament the kitchen; and after dinner, with great boast of
what improvement I had made, I took Charles once more into his new
study. A week of busy labours followed, in which I think you would not
have disliked to be our assistant. My brother and I almost covered the
walls with prints, for which purpose he cut out every print from every
book in his old library, coming in every now and then to ask my leave
to strip a fresh poor author, which he might not do, you know, without
my permission, as I am elder sister. There was such pasting, such
consultation upon these portraits, and where the series of pictures
from Ovid, Milton, and Shakspeare would show to most advantage, and in
what obscure corners authors of humble rank should be allowed to tell
their stories. All the books gave up their stores but one, a translation
from Ariosto, a delicious set of four and twenty prints, and for which
I had marked out a conspicuous place; when lo, we found at the moment
the scissors were going to work, that a part of the poem was printed
at the back of every picture! What a cruel disappointment! To conclude
this long story about nothing, the poor despised garret is now called
the print room, and is become our most familiar sitting-room.... The
lions still live in Exeter Change. Returning home through the Strand,
I often hear them roar about twelve o'clock at night. I never hear
them without thinking of you, because you seemed so pleased with the
sight of them, and said your young companions would stare when you
told them you had seen a lion.

"And now, my dear Barbara, farewell. I have not written such a long
letter a long time, but I am very sorry I had nothing amusing to write
about. Wishing you may pass happily through the rest of your schooldays
and every future day of your life,
                 "I remain,
                       "Your affectionate friend,
                                                "M. LAMB.


"My brother sends his love to you. You say you are not so tall as
Louisa--you must be; you cannot so degenerate from the rest of your
family" ["the measureless Bethams," Lamb called them]. "Now you have
begun I shall hope to have the pleasure of hearing from you again. I
shall always receive a letter from you with very great delight."

The next is a joint letter to Wordsworth, in acknowledgment of an
early copy of _The Excursion_, in which Charles holds the pen and is
the chief spokesman; but Mary puts in a judicious touch of her own:--


"August 14th, 1814.

"I cannot tell you how pleased I was at the receipt of the great
armful of poetry which you have sent me; and to get it before the rest
of the world, too! I have gone quite through with it, and was thinking
to have accomplished that pleasure a second time before I wrote to
thank you, but Mr. Burney came in the night (while we were out) and
made holy theft of it; but we expect restitution in a day or two. It
is the noblest conversational poem I ever read--a day in Heaven. The
part (or rather main body) which has left the sweetest odour on my
memory (a bad term for the remains of an impression so recent) is the
Tales of the Churchyard; the only girl among seven brethren born out
of due time, and not duly taken away again; the deaf man and the blind
man; the Jacobite and the Hanoverian, whom antipathies reconcile; the
Scarron-entry of the rusticating parson upon his solitude; these were
all new to me too. My having known the story of Margaret (at the
beginning), a very old acquaintance, even as long back as when I first
saw you at Stowey, did not make her reappearance less fresh. I don't
know what to pick out of this best of books upon the best subjects for
partial naming. That gorgeous sunset is famous; I think it must have
been the identical one we saw on Salisbury plain five years ago, that
drew Phillips from the card-table, where he had sat from the rise of
that luminary to its unequalled set; but neither he nor I had gifted
eyes to see those symbols of common things glorified, such as the
prophet saw them in that sunset--the wheel, the potter's clay, the
wash-pot, the wine-press, the almond-tree rod, the basket of figs, the
four-fold visaged head, the throne and Him that sat thereon." [It was
a mist glorified by sunshine, not a sunset, which the poet had described,
as Lamb afterwards discovered.] "One feeling I was particularly struck
with, as what I recognised so very lately at Harrow Church on entering
it after a hot and secular day's pleasure, the instantaneous coolness
and calming, almost transforming, properties of a country church just
entered; a certain fragrance which it has, either from its holiness or
being kept shut all the week, or the air that is let in being pure
country, exactly what you have reduced into words; but I am feeling
that which I cannot express. Reading your lines about it fixed me for
a time, a monument in Harrow Church. Do you know it? With its fine
long spire, white as washed marble, to be seen, by vantage of its high
site, as far as Salisbury spire itself almost.

"I shall select a day or two, very shortly, when I am coolest in
brain, to have a steady second reading, which I feel will lead to many
more, for it will be a stock-book with me while eyes or spectacles
shall be lent me. There is a great deal of noble matter about
mountain-scenery, yet not so much as to overpower and discountenance a
poor Londoner or south-countryman entirely, though Mary seems to have
felt it occasionally a little too powerfully; for it was her remark
during reading it that by your system it was doubtful whether a liver
in towns had a soul to be saved. She almost trembled for that
invisible part of us in her.

                                           "C. LAMB AND SISTER."


Manning, who had latterly been "tarrying on the skirts of creation" in
far Thibet and Tartary, beyond the reach even of letters, now at last,
in 1815, appeared once more on the horizon at the "half-way house" of
Canton, to which place Lamb hazarded a letter,--a most incomparable
"lying letter," and another to confess the cheat to St. Helena:--"Have
you recovered the breathless, stone-staring astonishment into which
you must have been thrown upon learning at landing that an Emperor of
France was living in St. Helena? What an event in the solitude of the
seas! like finding a fish's bone at the top of Plinlimmon.... Mary
reserves a portion of your silk, not to be buried in (as the false
Nuncio asserts), but to make up spick and span into a bran new gown to
wear when you come. I am the same as when you knew me, almost to a
surfeiting identity. This very night I am going to _leave off
tobacco_! Surely there must be some other world in which this
unconquerable purpose shall be realised. The soul hath not her
generous aspirings implanted in her in vain."

Manning brought with him on his return much material for compiling a
Chinese Dictionary; which purpose, however, remained unfulfilled. He
left no other memorial of himself than his friendship with Lamb. "You
see but his husk or shrine. He discloses not, save to select worshippers,
and will leave the world without anyone hardly but me knowing how
stupendous a creature he is," said Lamb of him. Henceforth their
intercourse was chiefly personal.

Coleridge also, who of late had been almost as much lost to his
friends as if he too were in Tartary or Thibet, though now and then
"like a re-appearing star" standing up before them when least
expected, was at the beginning of April 1816 once more in London,
endeavouring to get his tragedy of _Remorse_ accepted at Covent
Garden. "Nature, who conducts every creature by instinct to its best
end, has skilfully directed C. to take up his abode at a chemist's
laboratory in Norfolk Street," writes Lamb to Wordsworth. "She might
as well as have sent a _Helluo Liborum_ for cure to the Vatican. He
has done pretty well as yet. Tell Miss Hutchinson my sister is every
day wishing to be quietly sitting down to answer her very kind letter,
but while C. stays she can hardly find a quiet time; God bless him!"

But Coleridge was more in earnest than Lamb supposed in his
determination to break through his thraldom to opium. Either way, he
himself believed that death was imminent: to go on was deadly, and a
physician of eminence had told him that to abstain altogether would,
probably, be equally fatal. He therefore found a medical man willing
to undertake the care of him: to exercise absolute surveillance for a
time and watch the results. It is an affecting letter in which he
commits himself into Mr. Gillman's hands:--"You will never _hear_
anything but truth from me, prior habits render it out of my power to
tell an untruth, but unless carefully observed I dare not promise that
I should not, with regard to this detested poison, be capable of
acting one.... For the first week I must not be permitted to leave
your house, unless with you. Delicately or indelicately, this must be
done, and both the servants and the assistant must receive absolute
commands from you. The stimulus of conversation suspends the terror
that haunts my mind; but when I am alone the horrors I have suffered
from laudanum, the degradation, the blighted utility, almost overwhelm
me. If (as I feel for the _first time_ a soothing confidence it will
prove) I should leave you restored to my moral and bodily health, it
is not myself only that will love and honour you; every friend I have
(and thank God! in spite of this wretched vice I have many and warm
ones, who were friends of my youth and have never deserted me) will
thank you with reverence." That confidence was justified, those thanks
well earned. In the middle of April 1816 Coleridge took up his abode
with the Gillmans at No. 3 The Grove, at Highgate, and found there a
serene haven in which he anchored for the rest of life; freeing
himself by slow degrees from the opium bondage, though too shattered
in frame ever to recover sound health; too far spent, morally and
mentally, by the long struggles and abasements he had gone through to
renew the splendours of his youth. That "shaping spirit of
imagination" with which nature had endowed him drooped languidly, save
in fitful moments of fervid talk; that "fertile, subtle, expansive
understanding" could not fasten with the long-sustained intensity
needful to grapple victoriously with the great problems that filled
his mind. The look of "timid earnestness" which Carlyle noted in his
eyes expressed a mental attitude--a mixture of boldness and fear, a
desire to seek truth at all hazards, yet also to drag Authority with
him, as a safe and comfortable prop to rest on. But his eloquence had
lost none of its richness and charm, his voice none of its sweetness.
"His face, when he repeats his verses, hath its ancient glory, an
archangel a little damaged," says Lamb to Wordsworth. "He is absent
but four miles, and the neighbourhood of such a man is as exciting as
the presence of fifty ordinary persons. 'Tis enough to be within the
whiff and wind of his genius for us not to possess our souls in
quiet."

Besides the renewed proximity of these two oldest and dearest of
friends, two new ones, both very young, both future biographers of
Lamb, were in these years added to the number of his intimates,--Talfourd
in 1815, Proctor in 1817. Leigh Hunt had become one probably as early
as 1812; Crabb Robinson in 1806; Thomas Hood, who stood in the front
rank of his younger friends, and Bernard Barton, the Quaker Poet,
Lamb's chief correspondent during the last ten years of his life, not
until 1822-3.

The years did not pass without each bringing a recurrence of one,
sometimes of two severe attacks of Mary's disorder. In the autumn of
1815 Charles repeats again the sad story to Miss Hutchinson:--

"I am forced to be the replier to your letter, for Mary has been ill
and gone from home these five weeks yesterday. She has left me very
lonely and very miserable. I stroll about, but there is no rest but at
one's own fireside, and there is no rest for me there now. I look
forward to the worse half being past, and keep up as well as I can.
She has begun to show some favourable symptoms. The return of her
disorder has been frightfully soon this time, with scarce a six
months' interval. I am almost afraid my worry of spirits about the E.
I. House was partly the cause of her illness; but one always imputes
it to the cause next at hand; more probably it comes from some cause
we have no control over or conjecture of. It cuts sad great slices out
of the time, the little time we shall have to live together. I don't
know but the recurrence of these illnesses might help me to sustain
her death better than if we had no partial separations. But I won't
talk of death. I will imagine us immortal or forget that we are
otherwise. By God's blessing, in a few weeks we may be taking our meal
together, or sitting in the front row of the pit at Drury Lane, or
taking our evening walk past the theatres, to look at the outside of
them at least, if not to be tempted in. Then we forget we are
assailable; we are strong for the time as rocks,--'the wind is
tempered to the shorn Lambs.' Poor C. Lloyd" [he was suffering from
the same dread malady], "poor Priscilla! I feel I hardly feel enough
for him; my own calamities press about me and involve me in a thick
integument not to be reached at by other folks' misfortunes. But I
feel all I can--all the kindness I can towards you all."

More and more sought by an enlarging circle of friends, chambers in
the Temple offered facilities for the dropping in of acquaintance upon
the Lambs at all hours of the day and night, which, social as they
were, was harassing, wearing and, to Mary, very injurious. This it
was, doubtless, which induced them to take the step announced by her
in the following letter to Dorothy Wordsworth:--


"November 21, 1817.

"Your kind letter has given us very great pleasure; the sight of your
handwriting was a most welcome surprise to us. We have heard good
tidings of you by all our friends who were so fortunate as to visit
you this summer, and rejoice to see it confirmed by yourself. You have
quite the advantage in volunteering a letter; there is no merit in
replying to so welcome a stranger.

"We have left the Temple. I think you will be sorry to hear this. I
know I have never been so well satisfied with thinking of you at Rydal
Mount, as when I could connect the idea of you with your own Grasmere
Cottage. Our rooms were dirty and out of repair, and the
inconveniences of living in chambers became every year more irksome,
and so, at last, we mustered up resolution enough to leave the good
old place that so long had sheltered us, and here we are, living at a
brazier's shop, No. 20, in Russell Street, Covent Garden, a place all
alive with noise and bustle; Drury Lane Theatre in sight from our
front, and Covent Garden from our back windows. The hubbub of the
carriages returning from the play does not annoy me in the least;
strange that it does not, for it is quite tremendous. I quite enjoy
looking out of the window, and listening to the calling up of the
carriages, and the squabbles of the coachmen and linkboys. It is the
oddest scene to look down upon; I am sure you would be amused with it.
It is well I am in a cheerful place, or I should have many misgivings
about leaving the Temple. I look forward with great pleasure to the
prospect of seeing my good friend, Miss Hutchinson. I wish Rydal
Mount, with all its inhabitants enclosed, were to be transplanted with
her, and to remain stationary in the midst of Covent Garden. I passed
through the street lately where Mr. and Mrs. Wordsworth lodged;
several fine new houses, which were then just rising out of the
ground, are quite finished, and a noble entrance made that way into
Portland Place. I am very sorry for Mr. De Quincey. What a blunder the
poor man made when he took up his dwelling among the mountains! I long
to see my friend Pypos. Coleridge is still at Little Hampton with Mrs.
Gillman; he has been so ill as to be confined to his room almost the
whole time he has been there.

"Charles has had all his Hogarths bound in a book; they were sent home
yesterday, and now that I have them altogether, and perceive the
advantage of peeping close at them through my spectacles, I am
reconciled to the loss of their hanging round the room, which has been
a great mortification to me. In vain I tried to console myself with
looking at our new chairs and carpets, for we have got new chairs and
carpets covering all over our two sitting rooms; I missed my old
friends, and could not be comforted. Then I would resolve to learn to
look out of the window, a habit I never could attain in my life, and I
have given it up as a thing quite impracticable--yet, when I was at
Brighton last summer, the first week I never took my eyes off from the
sea, not even to look in a book: I had not seen the sea for sixteen
years. Mrs. Morgan, who was with us, kept her liking, and continued
her seat in the window till the very last, while Charles and I played
truants and wandered among the hills, which we magnified into little
mountains, and _almost as good as_ Westmoreland scenery. Certainly we
made discoveries of many pleasant walks, which few of the Brighton
visitors have ever dreamed of--for, like as is the case in the
neighbourhood of London, after the first two or three miles we are
sure to find ourselves in a perfect solitude. I hope we shall meet
before the walking faculties of either of us fail; you say you can
walk fifteen miles with ease; that is exactly my stint, and more
fatigues me; four or five miles every third or fourth day, keeping
very quiet between, was all Mrs. Morgan could accomplish. God bless
you and yours. Love to all and each one."

In the spring of 1820 the Lambs took lodgings at Stoke Newington
without, however, giving up the Russell Street home,--for the sake of
rest and quiet; the change from the Temple to Covent Garden not having
proved much of a success in that respect, and the need grown serious.
Even Lamb's mornings at the office and his walk thence were besieged
by officious acquaintance: then, as he tells Wordsworth, "up I go,
mutton on table, hungry as a hunter, hope to forget my cares, and bury
them in the agreeable abstraction of mastication. Knock at the door;
in comes Mr. Hazlitt, or Mr. Burney, or Morgan Demi Gorgon, or my
brother, or somebody, to prevent my eating alone--a process absolutely
necessary to my poor wretched digestion. O the pleasure of eating
alone! eating my dinner alone! let me think of it. But in they come,
and make it absolutely necessary that I should open a bottle of
orange; for my meat turns into a stone when any one dines with me if I
have not wine. Wine can mollify stones; then _that_ wine turns into
acidity, acerbity, misanthropy, a hatred of my interrupters--(God
bless 'em! I love some of 'em dearly)--and with the hatred a still
greater aversion to their going away. Bad is the dead sea they bring
upon me, choking and deadening; but worse is the deader dry sand they
leave me on if they go before bed-time. Come never, I would say to
these spoilers of my dinner; but if you come, never go!... Evening
company I should always like had I any mornings, but I am saturated
with human faces (_divine_ forsooth!) and voices all the golden
morning; and five evenings in a week would be as much as I should
covet to be in company; but I assure you that is a wonderful week in
which I can get two or one to myself. I am never C. L., but always C.
L. & Co. He who thought it not good for man to be alone preserve me
from the more prodigious monstrosity of being never by myself! I
forget bed-time, but even there these sociable frogs clamber up to
annoy me."...

It was during the Russell Street days that the Lambs made the
acquaintance of Vincent Novello. He had a little daughter, Mary
Victoria, afterwards Mrs. Cowden-Clarke, whose heart Mary won, leaving
many sweet and happy impressions of herself graven there, which
eventually took shape in her _Recollections of Writers_. Mrs. Novello
had lost a baby in the spring of 1820, and from the quiet of Stoke
Newington Mary wrote her a sweet letter of condolence:--


"Spring, 1820.

"Since we heard of your sad sorrow, you have been perpetually in our
thoughts; therefore you may well imagine how welcome your kind
remembrance of us must be. I know not how to thank you for it. You bid
me write a long letter; but my mind is so possessed with the idea that
you must be occupied with one only thought, that all trivial matters
seem impertinent. I have just been reading again Mr. Hunt's delicious
essay [_Deaths of Little Children_], which, I am sure, must have come
so home to your hearts. I shall always love him for it. I feel that it
is all that one can think, but which no one but he could have done so
prettily. May he lose the memory of his own babies in seeing them all
grow old around him. Together with the recollection of your dear baby
the image of a little sister I once had comes as fresh into my mind as
if I had seen her lately.... I long to see you, and I hope to do so on
Tuesday or Wednesday in next week. Percy Street! I love to write the
word. What comfortable ideas it brings with it! We have been pleasing
ourselves, ever since we heard this unexpected piece of good news,
with the anticipation of frequent drop-in visits and all the social
comfort of what seems almost next-door neighbourhood.

"Our solitary confinement has answered its purpose even better than I
expected. It is so many years since I have been out of town in the
spring that I scarcely knew of the existence of such a season. I see,
every day, some new flower peeping out of the ground, and watch its
growth; so that I have a sort of intimate friendship with each. I know
the effect of every change of weather upon them--have learned all
their names, the duration of their lives, and the whole progress of
their domestic economy. My landlady, a nice, active old soul that
wants but one year of eighty, and her daughter, a rather aged young
gentlewoman, are the only labourers in a pretty large garden; for it
is a double house, and two long strips of ground are laid into one,
well stored with fruit trees, which will be in full blossom the week
after I am gone, and flowers, as many as can be crammed in, of all
sorts and kinds. But flowers are flowers still; and I must confess I
would rather live in Russell Street all my life, and never set my foot
but on the London pavement, than be doomed always to enjoy the silent
pleasures I now do. We go to bed at ten o'clock. Late hours are
life-shortening things, but I would rather run all risks, and sit
every night--at some places I could name--wishing in vain at eleven
o'clock for the entrance of the supper tray, than be always up and
alive at eight o'clock breakfast as I am here. We have a scheme to
reconcile these things. We have an offer of a very low-rented lodging
a mile nearer town than this. Our notion is to divide our time in
alternate weeks between quiet rest and dear London weariness. We give
an answer to-morrow; but what that will be at this present writing I
am unable to say. In the present state of our undecided opinion, a
very heavy rain that is now falling may turn the scale.... Dear rain,
do go away, and let us have a fine chearful sunset to argue the matter
fairly in. My brother walked seventeen miles yesterday before dinner.
And, notwithstanding his long walk to and from the office, we walk
every evening; but I by no means perform in this way so well as I used
to do. A twelve mile walk, one hot Sunday morning, made my feet
blister, and they are hardly well now...."

"A fine cheerful sunset" did smile, it seems, upon the project of
permanent country lodgings; for during the next three years the Lambs
continued to alternate between "dear London weariness" in Russell
Street, and rest and quiet work at Dalston. Years they were which
produced nearly all the most delightful of the _Essays of Elia_.

The year 1821 closed gloomily;--"I stepped into the Lambs' cottage at
Dalston," writes Crabb Robinson in his diary, Nov. 18; "Mary pale and
thin, just recovered from one of her attacks. They have lost their
brother John, and feel the loss." And the very same week died fine old
Captain Burney. He had been made Admiral but a fortnight before his
death. These gaps among the old familiar faces struck chill to their
hearts. In a letter to Wordsworth of the following spring Lamb says:
"We are pretty well, save colds and rheumatics, and a certain deadness
to everything, which I think I may date from poor John's loss, and
another accident or two at the same time that have made me almost bury
myself at Dalston, where yet I see more faces than I could wish.
Deaths overset one, and put one out long after the recent grief. Two
or three have died within the last two twelvemonths, and so many parts
of me have been numbed. One sees a picture, reads an anecdote, starts
a casual fancy, and thinks to tell of it to this person in preference
to every other; the person is gone whom it would have peculiarly
suited. It won't do for another. Every departure destroys a class of
sympathies. There's Captain Burney gone! What fun has whist now? What
matters it what you lead if you can no longer fancy him looking over
you? One never hears anything, but the image of the particular person
occurs with whom alone, almost, you would care to share the intelligence.
Thus one distributes oneself about, and now for so many parts of me I
have lost the market." It was while John's death was yet recent that
Lamb wrote some tender recollections of him (fact and fiction blended
according to Elia's wont) in _Dream Children, a Reverie_, telling how
handsome and spirited he had been in his youth, "and how when he died,
though he had not been dead an hour, it seemed as if he had died a
great while ago, such a distance there is betwixt life and death; and
how I bore his death, as I thought pretty well at first, but
afterwards it haunted and haunted me; and though I did not cry or take
it to heart as some do, and as I think he would have done if I had
died, yet I missed him all day long and knew not till then how much I
had loved him. I missed his kindness and I missed his crossness, and
wished him to be alive again to be quarrelling with him (for we
quarrelled sometimes) rather than not have him again."



CHAPTER XIV.

Hazlitt's Divorce.--Emma Isola.--Mrs. Cowden Clarke's _Recollections_
of Mary.--The Visit to France.--Removal to Colebrook Cottage.--A
Dialogue of Reminiscences.

1822-3.--Æt. 58-59.


For some years matters had not gone smoothly between Sarah Hazlitt and
her husband. He was hard to live with, and she seems to have given up
the attempt to make the best of things, and to have sunk into a kind
of apathy in which even the duties of a housewife were ill-performed;
but his chief complaint was that "she despised him and his abilities."
In this Hazlitt was, probably, unjust to Sarah; for she was neither
stupid nor unamiable. From 1819 onwards he had absented himself from
home continually, living either at the Huts, a small inn on the edge
of Salisbury Plain, or in London lodgings. But in this year of 1822
his unhappy passion for Sarah Walker brought about a crisis; and what
had been only a negative kind of evil became unendurable. He prevailed
upon Sarah to consent to a divorce. It was obtained, in Edinburgh, by
Mrs. Hazlitt taking what, in Scotch law, is called "the oath of
calumny" which,--the suit being undefended,--entitled her to a
dissolution of the marriage tie. They then returned singly to
Winterslow, he to the Huts and she to her cottage. If they married
with but little love, they seem to have parted without any hate. One
tie remained--the strong affection each had for their son, who was
sometimes with one, sometimes with the other. Hazlitt's wholly
unrequited passion for Sarah Walker soon burned itself to ashes; and
in two years time he tried another experiment in marriage which was
even less successful than the first; for his bride, like Milton's,
declined to return home with him after the wedding tour, and he saw
her face no more. But, unlike Milton, he was little discomposed at the
circumstance. Sarah, grown a wiser if not a more dignified woman, did
not renew the scheming ways of her youth. She continued to stand high
in the esteem of Hazlitt's mother and sister, and often stayed with
them. The Lambs abated none of their old cordiality; Mary wrote few
letters now, but Charles sent her a friendly one sometimes. It was to
her he gave the first account of absent-minded George Dyer's feat of
walking straight into the New River, in broad daylight, on leaving
their door in Colebrook Row. Towards Hazlitt, also, their friendship
seemed substantially unchanged let him be as splenetic and wayward as
he might. "We cannot afford to cast off our friends because they are
not all we could wish," said Mary Lamb once when he had written some
criticisms on Wordsworth and Coleridge, in which glowing admiration
was mixed with savage ridicule in such a way that, as Lamb said, it
was "like saluting a man,--'Sir, you are the greatest man I ever saw,'
and then pulling him by the nose." But it needed only for Hazlitt
himself to be traduced and vilified, as he so often was, by the
political adversaries and critics of those days, for Lamb to rally to
his side and fearlessly pronounce him to be, "in his natural and
healthy state, one of the wisest and finest spirits breathing."

As a set-off against the already mentioned sorrows of this time, a new
element of cheerfulness was introduced into the Lamb household; for it
was in the course of the summer of 1823 that, during a visit to
Cambridge, they first saw Emma Isola, a little orphan child of whom
they soon grew so fond that eventually she became their adopted
daughter, their solace and comfort. To Mary especially was this a
happy incident. "For," says Mrs. Cowden Clarke in the _Recollections_
already alluded to, "she had a most tender sympathy with the
young,"--as the readers of _Mrs. Leicester's School_ will hardly need
telling. "She was encouraging and affectionate towards them, and won
them to regard her with a familiarity and fondness rarely felt by them
for grown people who are not their relations. She threw herself so
entirely into their way of thinking and contrived to take an estimate
of things so completely from _their_ point of view, that she made them
rejoice to have her for their co-mate in affairs that interested them.
While thus lending herself to their notions she, with a judiciousness
peculiar to her, imbued her words with the wisdom and experience that
belonged to her maturer years; so that while she seemed but the
listening, concurring friend, she was also the helping, guiding
friend. Her monitions never took the form of reproof, but were always
dropped in with the air of agreed propositions, as if they grew out of
the subject in question, and presented themselves as matters of course
to both her young companions and herself." The following is a
life-like picture, from the same hand, of Mary among the children she
gathered round her in these Russell Street days,--Hazlitt's little son
William, Victoria Novello (Mrs. Clarke herself), and Emma Isola.
Victoria used "to come to her on certain mornings, when Miss Lamb
promised to hear her repeat her Latin grammar, and hear her read
poetry with the due musically rhythmical intonation. Even now the
breathing murmur of the voice in which Mary Lamb gave low but
melodious utterance to those opening lines of the _Paradise Lost_:--


    Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
    Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
    Brought death into the world and all our woe,--

sounding full and rounded and harmonious, though so subdued in tone,
rings clear and distinct in the memory of her who heard the reader.
The echo of that gentle voice vibrates, through the lapse of many a
revolving year, true and unbroken in the heart where the low-breathed
sound first awoke response, teaching together with the fine appreciation
of verse music the finer love of intellect conjoined with goodness and
kindness.... "One morning, just as Victoria was about to repeat her
allotted task, in rushed a young boy who, like herself, enjoyed the
privilege of Miss Lamb's instruction in the Latin language. His mode
of entrance--hasty and abrupt--sufficiently denoted his eagerness to
have his lesson heard at once and done with, that he might be gone
again; accordingly Miss Lamb, asking Victoria to give up her turn,
desired the youth--Hazlitt's son--to repeat his pages of grammar
first. Off he set, rattled through the first conjugation post-haste;
darted through the second without drawing breath; and so on right
through in no time. The rapidity, the volubility, the triumphant
slap-dash of the feat perfectly dazzled the imagination of poor
Victoria, who stood admiring by, an amazed witness of the boy's
proficiency. She herself, a quiet plodding little girl, had only by
dint of diligent study and patient, persevering poring been able to
achieve a slow learning and as slow a repetition of her lessons. This
brilliant, off-hand method of despatching the Latin grammar was a
glory she had never dreamed of. Her ambition was fired, and the next
time she presented herself book in hand before Miss Lamb, she had no
sooner delivered it into her hearer's than she attempted to scour
through her verb at the same rattling pace which had so excited her
admiration. Scarce a moment and her stumbling scamper was checked.
'Stay, stay! how's this? What are you about, little Vicky?' asked the
laughing voice of Mary Lamb. 'Oh, I see. Well, go on; but gently,
gently; no need of hurry.' She heard to an end and then said, 'I see
what we have been doing--trying to be as quick and clever as William,
fancying it vastly grand to get on at a great rate as he does. But
there's this difference: it's natural in him while it's imitation in
you. Now, far better go on in your old staid way--which is your own
way--than try to take up a way that may become him, but can never
become you, even were you to succeed in acquiring it. We'll each of us
keep to our own natural ways, and then we shall be sure to do our
best.'" And when Victoria and Emma Isola met there, Mary entered into
their girlish friendship, let them have their gossip out in her own
room if tired of the restraint of grown-up company and once, before
Emma's return to school, took them to Dulwich and gave them "a
charming little dinner of roast fowl and custard pudding." ...
"Pleasant above all," says the surviving guest and narrator, "is the
memory of the cordial voice which said in a way to put the little
party at its fullest ease, 'Now, remember, we all pick our bones. It
isn't considered vulgar here to pick bones.'

"Once, when some visitors chanced to drop in unexpectedly upon her and
her brother," continues Mrs. Clarke, "just as they were sitting down
to their plain dinner of a bit of roast mutton, with her usual frank
hospitality she pressed them to stay and partake, cutting up the small
joint into five equal portions, and saying in her simple, easy way, so
truly her own, 'There's a chop apiece for us, and we can make up with
bread and cheese if we want more.'"

The more serious demands upon her sympathy and judgment made, after
childhood was left behind, by the young, whether man or woman, she met
with no less tenderness, tact, and wisdom. Once, for instance, when
she thought she perceived symptoms of an unexplained dejection in her
young friend Victoria, "how gentle was her sedate mode of reasoning
the matter, after delicately touching upon the subject and
endeavouring to draw forth its avowal! More as if mutually discussing
and consulting than as if questioning, she endeavoured to ascertain
whether uncertainties or scruples of faith had arisen in the young
girl's mind and had caused her preoccupied abstracted manner. If it
were any such source of disturbance, how wisely and feelingly she
suggested reading, reflecting, weighing; if but a less deeply-seated
depression, how sensibly she advised adopting some object to rouse
energy and interest! She pointed out the efficacy of studying a
language (she herself at upwards of fifty years of age began the
acquirement of French and Italian) as a remedial measure, and advised
Victoria to devote herself to a younger brother she had, in the same
way that she had attended to her own brother Charles in his infancy,
as the wholesomest and surest means of all for cure."

Allsop, Coleridge's friend, speaks in the same strain of how when a
young man overwhelmed with what then seemed the hopeless ruin of his
prospects, he found Charles and Mary Lamb not wanting in the hour of
need. "I have a clear recollection," says he, "of Miss Lamb's
addressing me in a tone which acted at once as a solace and support,
and after as a stimulus, to which I owe more perhaps than to the more
extended arguments of all others."

On the whole Mary was a silent woman. It was her forte rather to
enable others to talk their best by the charm of an earnest, speaking
countenance and a responsive manner; and there are but few instances
in which any of her words have been preserved. In that memorable
conversation at Lamb's table on "Persons one would like to have seen,"
reported by Hazlitt, when it was a question of women, "I should like
vastly to have seen Ninon de L'Enclos," said Mary. When Queen
Caroline's trial was pending and her character and conduct the topic
in every mouth, Mary said she did not see that it made much difference
whether the Queen was what they called guilty or not--meaning,
probably, that the stream was so plainly muddy at the fountain-head it
was idle to enquire what ill places it had passed through in its
course. Or else, perhaps, that, either way, the King's conduct was
equally odious.

The last observation of hers I can find recorded, is at first sight,
unlike herself:--"How stupid old people are!" It was that
unimaginative incapacity to sympathise with the young, so alien to her
own nature, no doubt, which provoked the remark. Of her readiness to
help all that came within her reach there is a side-glimpse in some
letters of Lamb's,--the latest to see the light,--which come, as other
interesting contributions to the knowledge of Lamb's writings have
done (notably those of the late Mr. Babson), from over the Atlantic.
In _The Century_ Magazine for September 1882 are seven letters to John
Howard Payne, an American playwright, whom Lamb was endeavouring to
help in his but partially successful struggle to earn a livelihood by
means of adaptations for the stage in London and Paris. Mrs.
Cowden-Clarke speaks of this Mr. Payne as the acquaintance whom Mary
Lamb, "ever thoughtful to procure a pleasure for young people," had
asked to call and see the little Victoria, then at school at Boulogne,
on his way to Paris. He proved a good friend to Mary herself during
that trip to France which, with a courage amounting to rashness, she
and Charles undertook in the summer of 1822.

"I went to call on the Lambs to take leave, they setting out for
France next morning," writes Crabb Robinson in his diary, June 17th.
"I gave Miss Lamb a letter for Miss Williams, to whom I sent a copy of
_Mrs. Leicester's School_. The Lambs have a Frenchman as their
companion and Miss Lamb's nurse, in case she should be ill. Lamb was
in high spirits; his sister rather nervous."

The privation of sleep entailed in such a journey combined with the
excitement, produced its inevitable result and Mary was taken with one
of her severest attacks in the _diligence_ on the way to Amiens.
There, happily, they seem to have found Mr. Payne, who assisted
Charles to make the necessary arrangements for her remaining under
proper care till the return of reason, and then he went on to Paris,
where he stayed with the Kennys, who thought him dull and out of
sorts, as well he might be. Two months afterwards we hear of Mary as
being in Paris. Charles, his holiday over, had been obliged to return
to England.

"Mary Lamb has begged me to give her a day or two," says Crabb
Robinson. "She comes to Paris this evening, and stays here a week. Her
only male friend is a Mr. Payne, whom she praises exceedingly for his
kindness and attentions to Charles. He is the author of _Brutus_, and
has a good face."

It was in the following year that most of the letters to Mr. Payne,
published in the _Century_, were written. They disclose Mary and her
brother zealous to repay one good turn with another by watching the
success of his dramatic efforts and endeavouring to negociate
favourably for him with actors and managers. "_Ali Pacha_ will do. I
sent my sister the first night, not having been able to go myself, and
her report of its effect was most favourable.... My love to my little
wife at Versailles, and to her dear mother.... I have no mornings (my
day begins at 5 p.m.) to transact business in, or talents for it, so I
employ Mary, who has seen Robertson, who says that the piece which is
to be operafied was sent to you six weeks since, &c. &c. Mary says you
must write more _showable_ letters about these matters, for with all
our trouble of crossing out this word, and giving a cleaner turn to
th' other, and folding down at this part, and squeezing an obnoxious
epithet into a corner, she can hardly communicate their contents
without offence. What, man, put less gall in your ink, or write me a
biting tragedy!"...

The piece which was sent to Mr. Payne in Paris to be "operafied" was
probably _Clari, the Maid of Milan_. Bishop wrote or adapted the
music: it still keeps possession of the stage and contains "Home sweet
Home," which plaintive, well-worn ditty earned for its writer among
his friends the title of the "Homeless Poet of Home." He ended his
days as American Consul at Tunis.

This year's holiday (1823), spent at Hastings, was one of unalloyed
pleasure and refreshment. "I have given up my soul to walking," Lamb
writes. "There are spots, inland bays, &c., which realise the notions
of Juan Fernandez. The best thing I lit upon, by accident, was a small
country church (by whom or when built unknown), standing bare and
single in the midst of a grove, with no house or appearance of
habitation within a quarter of a mile, only passages diverging from it
through beautiful woods to so many farm-houses. There it stands, like
the first idea of a church, before parishioners were thought of,
nothing but birds for its congregation; or, like a hermit's oratory
(the hermit dead), or a mausoleum; its effect singularly impressive,
like a church found in a desert isle to startle Crusoe with a home
image.... I am a long time reconciling to town after one of these
excursions. Home is become strange, and will remain so yet awhile;
home is the most unforgiving of friends, and always resents absence; I
know its cordial looks will return, but they are slow in clearing up."

The "cordial looks," however, of the Russell Street home never did
return. The plan of the double lodgings, there and at Dalston, was a
device of double discomforts; the more so as "at my town lodgings," he
afterwards confesses to Bernard Barton, "the mistress was always
quarrelling with our maid; and at my place of rustication the whole
family were always beating one another, brothers beating sisters (one,
a most beautiful girl, lamed for life), father beating sons and
daughters, and son again beating his father, knocking him fairly down,
a scene I never before witnessed, but was called out of bed by the
unnatural blows, the parricidal colour of which, though my morals
could not but condemn, yet my reason did heartily approve, and in the
issue the house was quieter for a day or so than I had ever known." It
was time, indeed, for brother and sister to have a house of their own
over their heads, means now amply sufficing.

A few weeks after their return Lamb took Colebrook Cottage, at
Islington. It was detached, faced the New River, had six good rooms,
and a spacious garden behind. "You enter without passage," he writes,
"into a cheerful dining-room, all studded over and rough with old
books, and above is a lightsome drawing-room, full of choice prints. I
feel like a great lord, never having had a house before."

A new acquaintance, a man much after Lamb's heart, at whose table he
and Mary were, in the closing years of his life, more frequent guests
than at any other--"Mr. Carey, the Dante man"--was added to their list
this year. "He is a model of a country parson, lean (as a curate ought
to be), modest, sensible, no obtruder of Church dogmas, quite a
different man from Southey," says Lamb of him. "Quite a different man
from Southey" had a peculiar sting in it at this moment, for Southey
had just struck a blow at _Elia_ in the _Quarterly_, as unjust in
purport as it was odious in manner,--detraction in the guise of
praise. Lamb answered him this very autumn in the _London Magazine_: a
noble answer it is, which seems to have awakened something like
compunction in Southey's exemplary but pharisaic soul. At all events
he made overtures for a reconciliation, which so touched Lamb's
generous heart, he was instantly ready to take blame upon himself for
having written the letter. "I shall be ashamed to see you, and my
sister, though innocent, still more so," he says, "for the folly was
done without her knowledge, and has made her uneasy ever since. My
guardian angel was absent at that time." By which token we know that
Mary did not escape the usual sad effects of change and fatigue in the
removal to Colebrook Cottage.

Means were easy, home comfortable now; but many a wistful backward
glance did brother and sister cast to the days of early struggle, with
their fuller life, keener pleasures, and better health. It was not
long after they were settled in Colebrook Cottage that they opened
their hearts on this theme in that beautiful essay by Elia called _Old
China_--Wordsworth's favourite,--in which Charles, for once, made
himself Mary's--or as he calls her Cousin Bridget's--mouthpiece.
Whilst sipping tea out of "a set of extraordinary blue china, a recent
purchase,"... writes Elia, "I could not help remarking how favourable
circumstances had been to us of late years that we could afford to
please the eye, sometimes, with trifles of this sort; when a passing
sentiment seemed to overshade the brow of my companion;--I am quick at
detecting these summer clouds in Bridget.

"'I wish the good old times would come again,' she said; 'when we were
not quite so rich. I do not mean that I want to be poor; but there was
a middle state'--so she was pleased to ramble on--'in which I am sure
we were a great deal happier. A purchase is but a purchase now that
you have money enough and to spare. Formerly it used to be a triumph.
When we coveted a cheap luxury (and O how much ado I had to get you to
consent in those times!), we were used to have a debate two or three
days before, and to weigh the _for_ and _against_, and think what we
might spare it out of, and what saving we could hit upon that should
be an equivalent. A thing was worth buying then, when we felt the
money that we paid for it.

"'Do you remember the brown suit which you made to hang upon you till
all your friends cried shame upon you, it grew so threadbare--and all
because of that folio Beaumont and Fletcher, which you dragged home
late at night from Barker's in Covent Garden? Do you remember how we
eyed it for weeks before we could make up our minds to the purchase,
and had not come to a determination till it was near ten o'clock of
the Saturday night, when you set off from Islington, fearing you
should be too late,--and when the old bookseller with some grumbling
opened his shop, and by the twinkling taper (for he was setting
bedwards) lighted out the relic from his dusty treasures,--and when
you lugged it home, wishing it were twice as cumbersome,--and when you
presented it to me,--and when we were exploring the perfectness of it
(_collating_, you called it),--and while I was repairing some of the
loose leaves with paste, which your impatience would not suffer to be
left till daybreak,--was there no pleasure in being a poor man? or can
those neat black clothes which you wear now, and are so careful to
keep brushed since we have become rich and finical, give you half the
honest vanity with which you flaunted it about in that over-worn suit,
your old corbeau, for four or five weeks longer than you should have
done to pacify your conscience for the mighty sum of fifteen--or
sixteen shillings, was it?--a great affair we thought it then--which
you had lavished on the old folio? Now you can afford to buy any book
that pleases you, but I do not see that you ever bring me home any
nice old purchases now.

"'When you came home with twenty apologies for laying out a less
number of shillings upon that print after Lionardo which we christened
the "Lady Blanch," when you looked at the purchase and thought of the
money, and thought of the money and looked again at the picture--was
there no pleasure in being a poor man? Now you have nothing to do but
to walk into Colnaghi's and buy a wilderness of Lionardos. Yet, do
you?

"'Then do you remember our pleasant walks to Enfield, and Potter's
Bar, and Waltham when we had a holiday--holidays and all other fun are
gone now we are rich--and the little hand-basket in which I used to
deposit our day's fare of savory cold lamb and salad,--and how you
would pry about at noontide for some decent house where we might go in
and produce our store--only paying for the ale that you must call
for--and speculated upon the looks of the landlady, and whether she
was likely to allow us a table-cloth, and wish for such another honest
hostess as Izaak Walton has described many a one on the pleasant banks
of the Lea when he went a-fishing--and sometimes they would prove
obliging enough and sometimes they would look grudgingly upon us--but
we had cheerful looks still for one another, and would eat our plain
food savorily, scarcely grudging Piscator his Trout Hall? Now, when we
go out a day's pleasuring, which is seldom moreover, we _ride_ part of
the way, and go into a fine inn and order the best of dinners, never
debating the expense--which after all never has half the relish of
those chance country snaps, when we were at the mercy of uncertain
usage and a precarious welcome.

"'You are too proud to see a play anywhere now but in the pit. Do you
remember where it was we used to sit when we saw the Battle of Hexham,
and the Surrender of Calais, and Bannister and Mrs. Bland in the
Children in the Wood,--when we squeezed out our shillings a-piece to
sit three or four times in a season in the one-shilling gallery, where
you felt all the time that you ought not to have brought me, and more
strongly I felt obligation to you for having brought me--and the
pleasure was the better for a little shame--and when the curtain drew
up what cared we for our place in the house, or what mattered it where
we were sitting, when our thoughts were with Rosalind in Arden or with
Viola at the Court of Illyria? You used to say that the gallery was
the best place of all for enjoying a play socially,--that the relish
of such exhibitions must be in proportion to the infrequency of
going,--that the company we met there, not being in general readers of
plays, were obliged to attend the more, and did attend, to what was
going on on the stage, because a word lost would have been a chasm
which it was impossible for them to fill up. With such reflections we
consoled our pride then--and I appeal to you whether as a woman I met
generally with less attention and accommodation than I have done since
in more expensive situations in the house? The getting in, indeed, and
the crowding up those inconvenient stair-cases was bad enough--but
there was still a law of civility to woman recognized to quite as
great an extent as we ever found in the other passages--and how a
little difficulty overcome heightened the snug seat and the play
afterwards! Now we can only pay our money and walk in. You cannot see,
you say, in the galleries now. I am sure we saw, and heard too, well
enough then--but sight and all I think is gone with our poverty.

"'There was pleasure in eating strawberries before they became quite
common--in the first dish of peas while they were yet dear--to have
them for a nice supper, a treat. What treat can we have now? If we
were to treat ourselves now--that is to have dainties a little above
our means--it would be selfish and wicked. It is the very little more
that we allow ourselves beyond what the actual poor can get at, that
makes what I call a treat--when two people living together as we have
done, now and then indulge themselves in a cheap luxury which both
like, while each apologises and is willing to take both halves of the
blame to his single share. I see no harm in people making much of
themselves in that sense of the word. It may give them a hint how to
make much of others. But now--what I mean by the word--we never do
make much of ourselves. None but the poor can do it. I do not mean the
veriest poor of all, but persons, as we were, just above poverty.

"'I know what you were going to say--that it is mighty pleasant at the
end of the year to make all meet,--and much ado we used to have every
thirty-first night of December to account for our exceedings--many a
long face did you make over your puzzled accounts, and in contriving
to make it out how we had spent so much--or that we had not spent so
much--or that it was impossible we should spend so much next year--and
still we found our slender capital decreasing; but then, betwixt ways
and projects and compromises of one sort or another, and talk of
curtailing this charge and doing without that for the future--and the
hope that youth brings and laughing spirits (in which you were never
poor till now), we pocketed up our loss, and in conclusion, with
"lusty brimmers" (as you used to quote it out of _hearty, cheerful Mr.
Cotton_, as you called him) we used to "welcome in the coming guest."
Now we have no reckonings at all at the end of the old year--no
flattering promises about the new year doing better for us.'

"Bridget is so sparing of her speech on most occasions, that when she
gets into a rhetorical vein, I am careful how I interrupt it. I could
not help, however, smiling at the phantom of wealth which her dear
imagination had conjured up out of a clear income of poor--hundred
pounds a year. 'It is true we were happier when we were poorer, but we
were also younger, my cousin. I am afraid we must put up with the
excess, for if we were to shake the superflux into the sea, we should
not much mend ourselves. That we had much to struggle with as we grew
up together, we have reason to be most thankful. It strengthened and
knit our compact closer. We could never have been what we have been to
each other, if we had always had the sufficiency which you now
complain of. The resisting power, those natural dilations of the
youthful spirit, which circumstances cannot straiten--with us are long
since passed away. Competence to age is supplementary youth, a sorry
supplement indeed, but I fear the best that is to be had. We must ride
where we formerly walked; live better and lie softer--and we shall be
wise to do so--than we had means to do in those good old days you
speak of. Yet could those days return--could you and I once more walk
our thirty miles a day,--could Bannister and Mrs. Bland again be
young, and you and I be young again to see them,--could the good old
one-shilling gallery days return--they are dreams, my cousin, now--but
could you and I at this moment, instead of this quiet argument, by our
well-carpeted fireside, sitting on this luxurious sofa, be once more
struggling up those inconvenient stair-cases, pushed about and
squeezed and elbowed by the poorest rabble of poor gallery
scramblers,--could I once more hear those anxious shrieks of yours,
and the delicious '_Thank God we are safe_,' which always followed
when the topmost stair conquered let in the first light of the whole
cheerful theatre down beneath us--I know not the fathom-line that ever
touched a descent so deep as I would be willing to bury more wealth in
than Croesus had, or the great Jew R. is supposed to have, to purchase
it."...

These fire-side confidences between brother and sister bring back, in
all the warmth and fulness of life, that past mid which the biographer
has been groping and listening to echoes.



CHAPTER XV.

Lamb's Ill-health.--Retirement from the India House, and subsequent
Illness.--Letter from Mary to Lady Stoddart.--Colebrook Cottage
left.--Mary's constant Attacks.--Home given up.--Board with the
Westwoods.--Death of Hazlitt.--Removal to Edmonton.--Marriage of Emma
Isola.--Mary's sudden Recovery.--Ill again.--Death of Coleridge.--Death
of Charles.--Mary's Last Days and Death.

1824-47.--Æt. 60-83.


The year 1824 was one of the best Mary ever enjoyed. Alas! it was not
the precursor of others like it, but rather a farewell gleam before
the clouds gathered up thicker and thicker till the light of reason
was permanently obscured. In November Charles wrote to Miss
Hutchinson: "We had promised our dear friends the Monkhouses"
[relatives of Mrs. Wordsworth]--"promised ourselves, rather--a visit
to them at Ramsgate; but I thought it best, and Mary seemed to have it
at heart too, not to go far from home these last holidays. It is
connected with a sense of unsettlement, and secretly I know she hoped
that such abstinence would be friendly to her health. She certainly
has escaped her sad yearly visitation, whether in consequence of it,
or of faith in it, and we have to be thankful for a good 1824, To get
such a notion in our heads may go a great way another year. Not that
we quite confined ourselves; but, assuming Islington to be
head-quarters, we made timid flights to Ware, Watford, &c., to try how
trouts tasted, for a night out or so, not long enough to make the
sense of change oppressive, but sufficient to scour the rust of home."

With Lamb it was quite otherwise. The letters of this year show that
health and spirits were flagging sorely. He had, ever since 1820, been
working at high pressure; producing in steady, rapid succession, his
matchless _Essays_ in the _London Magazine_, and this at the end of a
long day's office work. His delicate, nervous organisation could not
fail to suffer from the continued strain; not to mention the ever
present and more terrible one of his sister's health.

At last his looks attracted the notice of one of his chiefs, and it
was intimated that a resignation might be accepted; as it was after
some anxious delays; and a provision for Mary, if she survived, was
guaranteed in addition to his comfortable pension. The sense of
freedom was almost overwhelming. "Mary wakes every morning with an
obscure feeling that some good has happened to us," he writes. "Leigh
Hunt and Montgomery, after their releasements, describe the shock of
their emancipation much as I feel mine. But it hurt their frames; I
eat, drink, and sleep as sound as ever."

A reaction did come, however. Lamb continued pretty well through the
spring, but in the summer he was prostrated by a severe attack of
nervous fever. In July he wrote to Bernard Barton: "My nervous attack
has so unfitted me that I have not courage to sit down to a letter. My
poor pittance in the _London_ you will see is drawn from my sickness"
(_The Convalescent_, which appeared July 1825).

One more glimpse of Mary in a letter from her own hand. Again the
whole summer was being spent in lodgings at Enfield, whence Mary wrote
to congratulate her old friend Mrs., now Lady, Stoddart--her husband
having become Chief Justice of Malta--on the marriage of a daughter:--


"August 9, 1827.

"MY DEAR LADY-FRIEND,--My brother called at our empty cottage
[Colebrook] yesterday, and found the cards of your son, and his friend
Mr. Hine, under the door; which has brought to my mind that I am in
danger of losing this post, as I did the last, being at that time in a
confused state of mind--for at that time we were talking of leaving,
and persuading ourselves that we were intending to leave town and all
our friends, and sit down for ever, solitary and forgotten here....
Here we are, and we have locked up our house, and left it to take care
of itself; but, at present, we do not design to extend our rural life
beyond Michaelmas. Your kind letter was most welcome to me, though the
good news contained in it was already known to me. Accept my warmest
congratulations, though they come a little of the latest. In my next I
may probably have to hail you grand-mama, or to felicitate you on the
nuptials of pretty Mary who, whatever the beaux of Malta may think of
her, I can only remember her round shining face, and her 'O William!
dear William!' when we visited her the other day at school. Present my
love and best wishes--a long and happy married life to dear
Isabella--I love to call her Isabella; but in truth, having left your
other letter in town, I recollect no other name she has. The same love
and the same wishes--_in futuro_--to my friend Mary. Tell her that her
'dear William' grows taller, and improves in manly looks and man-like
behaviour every time I see him. What is Henry about? and what should
one wish for him? If he be in search of a wife, I will send him out
Emma Isola.

"You remember Emma, that you were so kind as to invite to your ball?
She is now with us; and I am moving heaven and earth, that is to say,
I am pressing the matter upon all the very few friends I have that are
likely to assist me in such a case, to get her into a family as
governess; and Charles and I do little else here than teach her
something or other all day long.

"We are striving to put enough Latin into her to enable her to begin
to teach it to young learners. So much for Emma--for you are so
fearfully far away that I fear it is useless to implore your patronage
for her....

"I expect a pacquet of manuscript from you. You promised me the office
of negociating with booksellers and so forth for your next work."
[Lady Stoddart published several tales under the name of Blackford.]
"Is it in good forwardness? Or do you grow rich and indolent now? It
is not surprising that your Maltese story should find its way into
Malta; but I was highly pleased with the idea of your pleasant
surprise at the sight of it. I took a large sheet of paper, in order
to leave Charles room to add something more worth reading than my poor
mite. May we all meet again once more."

It was to escape the "dear weariness" of incessant friendly visitors,
which they were now less than ever able to bear, that they had taken
refuge in the Enfield lodging.

"We have been here near three months, and shall stay two more if people
will let us alone; but they persecute us from village to village," Lamb
writes to Bernard Barton in August.

At the end of that time they decided to return to Colebrook Cottage no
more, but to take a house at Enfield. The actual process of taking it
was witnessed by a spectator, a perfect stranger at the time, on whose
memory it left a lively picture. "Leaning idly out of a window, I saw
a group of three issuing from the 'gambogy-looking' cottage close at
hand,--a slim, middle-aged man, in quaint, uncontemporary habiliments,
a rather shapeless bundle of an old lady, in a bonnet like a mob cap,
and a young girl; while before them bounded a riotous dog (Hood's
immortal 'Dash'), holding a board with 'This House to Let' on it in
his jaws. Lamb was on his way back to the house-agent, and that was
his fashion of announcing that he had taken the premises.

"I soon grew to be on intimate terms with my neighbours," continues
the writer of this pleasant reminiscence--Mr. Westwood, in _Notes and
Queries_, vol. x.--"who let me loose in his library.... My heart
yearns even now to those old books. Their faces seem all familiar to
me, even their patches and blotches--the work of a wizened old cobbler
hard by--for little wotted Lamb of Roger Parkes and Charles Lewises. A
cobbler was his book-binder, and the rougher the restoration the
better.... When any notable visitors made their appearance at the
cottage, Mary Lamb's benevolent tap at my window-pane seldom failed to
summon me out, and I was presently ensconced in a quiet corner of
their sitting-room, half hid in some great man's shadow.

"Of the discourse of these _dii majores_ I have no recollection now;
but the faces of some of them I can still partially recall. Hazlitt's
face, for instance, keen and aggressive, with eyes that flashed out
epigram. Tom Hood's, a methodist parson's face, not a ripple breaking
the lines of it, though every word he dropped was a pun, and every pun
roused roars of laughter. Leigh Hunt's, parcel genial, parcel
democratic, with as much rabid politics on his lips as honey from
Mount Hybla. Miss Kelly [the little Barbara S. of _Elia_], plain but
engaging, the most unprofessional of actresses and unspoiled of women;
the bloom of the child on her cheek undefaced by the rouge, to speak
in metaphors. She was one of the most dearly welcome of Lamb's guests.
Wordsworth's, farmerish and respectable, but with something of the
great poet occasionally breaking out, and glorifying forehead and
eyes...."

Mary did not escape her usual seizure. "You will understand my
silence," writes Lamb to his Quaker friend, "when I tell you that my
sister, on the very eve of entering into a new house we have taken at
Enfield, was surprised with an attack of one of her sad long
illnesses, which deprive me of her society, though not of her
domestication, for eight or nine weeks together. I see her, but it
does her no good. But for this, we have the snuggest, most comfortable
house, with everything most compact and desirable. Colebrook is a
wilderness. The books, prints, &c. are come here, and the New River
came down with us. The familiar prints, the busts, the Milton, seem
scarce to have changed their rooms. One of her last observations was,
'How frightfully like this is to our room at Islington,'--our upstair
room she meant. We have tried quiet here for four months, and I will
answer for the comfort of it enduring." And again, later: "I have
scarce spirits to write. Nine weeks are completed, and Mary does not
get any better. It is perfectly exhausting. Enfield and everything is
very gloomy. But for long experience, I should fear her ever getting
well."

She did get "pretty well and comfortable again" before the year was
quite out, but it did not last long. Times grew sadder and sadder for
the faithful brother. There are two long, oft-quoted letters to
Bernard Barton, written in July 1829, which who has ever read without
a pang?

"My sister is again taken ill," he says, "and I am obliged to remove
her out of the house for many weeks, I fear, before I can hope to have
her again. I have been very desolate indeed. My loneliness is a little
abated by our young friend Emma having just come here for her
holidays, and a school-fellow of hers that was with her. Still the
house is not the same, though she is the same. Mary had been pleasing
herself with the prospect of seeing her at this time; and with all
their company, the house feels at times a frightful solitude.... But
town, with all my native hankering after it, is not what it was.... I
was frightfully convinced of this as I passed houses and places--empty
caskets now. I have ceased to care almost about anybody. The bodies I
cared for are in graves or dispersed.... Less than a month I hope will
bring home Mary. She is at Fulham, looking better in her health than
ever, but sadly rambling, and scarce showing any pleasure in seeing
me, or curiosity when I should come again. But the old feelings will
come back again, and we shall drown old sorrows over a game of picquet
again. But 'tis a tedious cut out of a life of fifty-four to lose
twelve or thirteen weeks every year or two. And, to make me more
alone, our ill-tempered maid is gone [Becky] who, with all her airs,
was yet a home-piece of furniture, a record of better days. The young
thing that has succeeded her is good and attentive, but she is
nothing; and I have no one here to talk over old matters with.
Scolding and quarrelling have something of familiarity and a community
of interest; they imply acquaintance; they are of resentment which is
of the family of dearness. Well, I shall write merrier anon. 'Tis the
present copy of my countenance I send, and to complain is a little to
alleviate. May you enjoy yourself as far as the wicked world will let
you, and think that you are not quite alone as I am."

To the friends who came to see him he made no complaints, nor showed a
sad countenance; but it was hard that he might not relieve his drear
solitude by the sights and sounds of beloved London. "O never let the
lying poets be believed," he writes to Wordsworth, "who 'tice men from
the cheerful haunts of streets; or think they mean it not of a country
village. In the ruins of Palmyra I could gird myself up to solitude,
or muse to the snorings of the Seven Sleepers; but to have a little
teazing image of a town about one; country folks that do not look like
country folks; shops two yards square; half-a-dozen apples and two
penn'orth of over-looked ginger-bread for the lofty fruiterers of
Oxford Street; and for the immortal book and print stalls, a
circulating library that stands still, where the show-picture is a
last year's valentine.... The very blackguards here are degenerate;
the topping gentry, stock-brokers; the passengers too many to insure
your quiet or let you go about whistling or gaping, too few to be the
fine, indifferent pageants of Fleet Street.... A garden was the
primitive prison till man, with Promethean felicity and boldness,
luckily sinned himself out of it. Thence followed Babylon, Nineveh,
Venice, London, haberdashers, goldsmiths, taverns, satires, epigrams,
puns,--these all came in on the town part and the thither side of
innocence...." In the same letter he announces that they have been
obliged to give up home altogether, and have "taken a farewell of the
pompous, troublesome trifle called house-keeping, and settled down
into poor boarders and lodgers at next door with an old couple, the
Baucis and Baucida of dull Enfield. Here we have nothing to do with
our victuals but to eat them, with the garden but to see it grow, with
the tax-gatherer but to hear him knock, with the maid but to hear her
scolded. Scot and lot, butcher, baker, are things unknown to us save
as spectators of the pageant. We are fed, we know not how; quietists,
confiding ravens.... Mary must squeeze out a line _propria manu_, but
indeed her fingers have been incorrigibly nervous to letter-writing
for a long interval. 'Twill please you all to hear that, though I fret
like a lion in a net, her present health and spirits are better than
they have been for some time past. She is absolutely three years and a
half younger since we adopted this boarding plan!... Under this roof I
ought now to take my rest, but that back-looking ambition, more
delightful, tells me I might yet be a Londoner! Well, if ever we do
move, we have encumbrances the less to impede us; all our furniture
has faded under the auctioneer's hammer, going for nothing, like the
tarnished frippery of the prodigal, and we have only a spoon or two
left to bless us. Clothed we came into Enfield, and naked we must go
out of it. I would live in London shirtless, bookless."

Now that Mary was recovered they did venture to try once more the
experiment of London lodgings at 24 Southampton Buildings, Holborn,
where Hazlitt had often stayed. But the result was worse even than
could have been anticipated. May 12, 1830, Lamb writes: "I have
brought my sister to Enfield, being sure she had no hope of recovery
in London. Her state of mind is deplorable beyond any example. I
almost fear whether she has strength, at her time of life, ever to get
out of it. Here she must be nursed and neither see nor hear of
anything in the world out of her sick chamber. The mere hearing that
Southey had called at our lodgings totally upset her. Pray see him or
hear of him at Mr. Rickman's and excuse my not writing to him. I dare
not write or receive a letter in her presence."

Another old friend, the one whom, next to Coleridge, Wordsworth and
Manning, Lamb valued most, died this year. Hazlitt's strength had been
for some time declining; and during the summer of 1830 he lay at his
lodgings, 6 Frith Street, Soho, languishing in what was to prove his
death illness, though he was but fifty-two; his mind clear and active
as ever, looking back, as he said, upon his past life which 'seemed as
if he had slept it out in a dream or shadow on the side of the hill of
knowledge, where he had fed on books, on thoughts, on pictures and
only heard in half-murmurs the trampling of busy feet or the noises of
the throng below.' 'I have had a happy life,' were his last words.
Unfortunate in love and marriage, perhaps scarcely capable of
friendship, he found the warmth of life, the tie that bound him to
humanity in the fervour of his admiration for all that is great, or
beautiful, or powerful in literature, in art, in heroic achievement.
His ideas, as he said of himself, were "of so sinewy a character that
they were in the nature of realities" to him. Lamb was by his
death-bed that 18th of September.

Godwin still lived, but there seems to have been little intercourse
between the old friends. Manning was often away travelling on the
Continent. Martin Burney maintained his place 'on the top scale of the
Lambs' friendship ladder, on which an angel or two were still
climbing, and some, alas! descending,' and oftenest enlivened the
solitude of Enfield. He "is as good and as odd as ever," writes
Charles to Mrs. Hazlitt. "We had a dispute about the word 'heir,'
which I contended was pronounced like 'air.' He said that might be in
common parlance, or that we might so use it speaking of the 'Heir-at-Law,'
a comedy, but that in the law courts it was necessary to give it a
full aspiration and to say _Hayer_; he thought it might even vitiate a
cause if a counsel pronounced it otherwise. In conclusion he 'would
consult Serjeant Wilde'--who gave it against him. Sometimes he falleth
into the water; sometimes into the fire. He came down here and
insisted on reading Virgil's 'Eneid' all through with me (which he
did), because a Counsel must know Latin. Another time he read out all
the Gospel of St. John, because Biblical quotations are very emphatic
in a Court of Justice. A third time he would carve a fowl, which he
did very ill-favouredly, because 'we did not know how indispensable it
was for a barrister to do all those things well. Those little things
were of more consequence than we supposed.' So he goes on, harassing
about the way to prosperity and losing it; with a long head, but
somewhat a wrong one--harum-scarum. Why does not his guardian angel
look to him? He deserves one; may-be he has tired him out."

A cheerful glimpse of the brother and sister occurs now and then in
the Diary of their old friend, Crabb Robinson, in these days when the
dark times were so long and the bright intervals so short and far
between. March 1832 he writes:--"I walked to Enfield and found the
Lambs in excellent state,--not in high health, but, what is far
better, quiet and cheerful. I had a very pleasant evening at whist.
Lamb was very chatty and altogether as I could wish." And again in
July, "... reached Lamb at the lucky moment before tea. After tea Lamb
and I took a pleasant walk together. He was in excellent health and
tolerable spirits, and was to-night quite eloquent in praise of Miss
Isola. He says she is the most sensible girl and the best female
talker he knows ... he is teaching her Italian without knowing the
language himself." Two months later the same friend took Walter Savage
Landor to pay them a visit. "We had scarcely an hour to chat with
them, but it was enough to make Landor express himself delighted with
the person of Mary Lamb and pleased with the conversation of Charles
Lamb, though I thought him by no means at his ease, and Miss Lamb was
quite silent."

Scarcely ever did Charles leave home for many hours together when Mary
was there to brighten it; not even for the temptation of seeing the
Wordsworths or Coleridge. "I want to see the Wordsworths," he writes,
"but I do not much like to be all night away. It is dull enough to be
here together, but it is duller to leave Mary; in short, it is
painful"; and to Coleridge, who had been hurt by the long interval
since he had seen them, Lamb writes:--"Not an unkind thought has
passed in my brain about you; but I have been wofully neglectful of
you.... old loves to and hope of kind looks from the Gillmans when I
come. If ever you thought an offence, much more wrote it against me,
it must have been in the times of Noah and the great waters swept it
away. Mary's most kind love, and may be a wrong prophet of your
bodings! here she is crying for mere love over your letter. I wring
out less but not sincerer showers."

The spring of 1833 brought to Charles and Mary only the return of dark
days. Lamb writes to Wordsworth:--

"Your letter, save in what respects your dear sister's health, cheered
me in my new solitude. Mary is ill again. Her illnesses encroach yearly.
The last was three months followed by two of depression most dreadful.
I look back upon her earlier attacks with longing: nice little durations
of six weeks or so, followed by complete restoration,--shocking as
they were then to me. In short, half her life she is dead to me, and
the other half is made anxious with fears and lookings forward to the
next shock. With such prospects it seemed to me necessary that she
should no longer live with me and be fluttered with continual
removals; so I am come to live with her at a Mr. Walden's and his wife
[at Edmonton], who take in patients, and have arranged to lodge and
board us only. They have had the care of her before. I see little of
her: alas! I too often hear her. _Sunt lachrymæ rerum!_ and you and I
must bear it.

"To lay a little more load on it, a circumstance has happened (_cujus
pars magna fui_), and which at another crisis I should have more
rejoiced in. I am about to lose my old and only walk companion, whose
mirthful spirits were the 'youth of our house,'--Emma Isola. I have
her here now for a little while, but she is too nervous properly to be
under such a roof, so she will make short visits--be no more an
inmate. With my perfect approval and more than concurrence she is to
be wedded to Moxon at the end of August. So 'perish the roses and the
flowers!'--how is it?

"Now to the brighter side. I am emancipated from the Westwoods and I
am with attentive people and younger. I am three or four miles nearer
the great city; coaches half price less and going always, of which I
will avail myself. I have few friends left there, one or two, though,
most beloved. But London streets and faces cheer me inexpressibly,
though not one known of the latter were remaining.... I am feeble but
cheerful in this my genial hot weather. Walked sixteen miles
yesterday. I can't read much in summer-time."

There was no sense of being "pulled up by the roots" now in these
removals. Lamb had and could have no home since she who had been its
chief pride was in perpetual banishment from him and from herself. The
following notelet which Talfourd, in his abundance, probably did not
think worth publishing, at any rate shows with mournful significance
how bitter were his recollections of Enfield, to which they had gone
full of hope. It was written to Mr. Gillman's eldest son, a young
clergyman, desirous of the incumbency of Enfield:--

"By a strange occurrence we have quitted Enfield _for ever!_ Oh! the
happy eternity! Who is Vicar or Lecturer for that detestable place
concerns us not. But Asbury, surgeon and a good fellow, has offered to
get you a Mover and Seconder, and you may use my name freely to him.
Except him and Dr. Creswell, I have no respectable acquaintance in the
dreary village. At least my friends are all in the _public_ line, and
it might not suit to have it moved at a special vestry by John Gage at
the Crown and Horseshoe, licensed victualler, and seconded by Joseph
Horner of the Green Dragon, ditto, that the Rev. J. G. is a fit person
to be Lecturer, &c.

"My dear James, I wish you all success, but am too full of my own
emancipation almost to congratulate anyone else."

Miss Isola's wedding-day came, and still Mary's mind was under
eclipse; but the announcement of the actual event restored her as by
magic; and here is her own letter of congratulation to the bride and
bridegroom,--the last from her hand:--


"MY DEAR EMMA AND EDWARD MOXON,

"Accept my sincere congratulations and imagine more good wishes than
my weak nerves will let me put into good, set words. The dreary blank
of _unanswered questions_ which I ventured to ask in vain, was cleared
up on the wedding-day by Mrs. W. taking a glass of wine and, with a
total change of countenance, begging leave to drink Mr. and Mrs.
Moxon's health. It restored me from that moment, as if by an electric
shock, to the entire possession of my senses. I never felt so calm and
quiet after a similar illness as I do now. I feel as if all tears were
wiped from my eyes and all care from my heart."


To which beautiful last words Charles adds:--

"DEARS AGAIN--Your letter interrupted a seventeenth game at picquet
which _we_ were having after walking to Wright's and purchasing shoes.
We pass our time in cards, walks, and reading. We attack Tasso soon.
Never was such a calm or such a recovery. 'Tis her own words
undictated."

Not Tasso only was attacked, but even Dante. "You will be amused to
hear," he tells Carey, "that my sister and I have, with the aid of
Emma, scrambled through the _Inferno_ by the blessed furtherance of
your polar-star translation. I think we scarce left anything
un-made-out. But our partner has left us and we have not yet resumed.
Mary's chief pride in it was that she should some day brag of it to
you."

The year 1834, the last of Lamb's life, opened gloomily. Early in
February was written one of the saddest and sweetest of all his
utterances concerning Mary. With the exception of a brief, mournful
allusion to her in his latest letter to Wordsworth these were his last
written words about her, and they breathe the same tenderness and
unswerving devotion at the close of his life-long struggle and
endurance for her sake as those he wrote when it began. The letter is
to Miss Fryer, an old school-fellow of Emma Isola:--"Your letter found
me just returned from keeping my birthday (pretty innocent!) at Dover
Street [the Moxons]. I see them pretty often. In one word, be less
uneasy about me; I bear my privations very well; I am not in the
depths of desolation as heretofore. Your admonitions are not lost upon
me. Your kindness has sunk into my heart. Have faith in me! It is no
new thing for me to be left to my sister. When she is not violent her
rambling chat is better to me than the sense and sanity of this world.
Her heart is obscured, not buried; it breaks out occasionally; and one
can discern a strong mind struggling with the billows that have gone
over it. I could be nowhere happier than under the same roof with her.
Her memory is unnaturally strong; and from ages past, if we may so
call the earliest records of our poor life, she fetches thousands of
names and things that never would have dawned upon me again, and
thousands from the ten years she lived before me. What took place from
early girlhood to her coming of age principally live again (every
important thing and every trifle) in her brain, with the vividness of
real presence. For twelve hours incessantly she will pour out without
intermission all her past life, forgetting nothing, pouring out name
after name to the Waldens, as a dream, sense and nonsense, truth and
errors huddled together, a medley between inspiration and possession.
What things we are! I know you will bear with me talking of things. It
seems to ease me, for I have nobody to tell these things to now...."

A week later was written that last little letter to Wordsworth (the
reader will recognize Louisa Martin--Monkey--so prettily described in
Lamb's first letter to Hazlitt):--"I write from a house of mourning.
The oldest and best friends I have left are in trouble. A branch of
them (and they of the best stock of God's creatures, I believe) is
establishing a school at Carlisle. Her name is Louisa Martin. For
thirty years she has been tried by me, and on her behaviour I would
stake my soul. Oh! if you could recommend her, how would I love
you--if I could love you better! Pray, pray recommend her. She is as
good a human creature--next to my sister, perhaps, the most exemplary
female I ever knew. Moxon tells me you would like a letter from me;
you shall have one. _This_ I cannot mingle up with any nonsense which
you usually tolerate from C. Lamb. Poor Mary is ill again, after a
short, lucid interval of four or five months. In short, I may call her
half dead to me. Good you are to me. Yours, with fervour of
friendship, for ever."

The dearest friend of all, Coleridge, long in declining health--the
"hooded eagle, flagging wearily," was lying this spring and summer in
his last painful illness--heart disease chiefly, but complicated with
other sources of suffering--borne with heroic patience. Thoughts of
his youth came to him, he said, 'like breezes from the Spice islands;'
and under the title of that poem written in the glorious Nether Stowey
days when Charles was his guest,--_This Lime-tree Bower my
Prison_,--he wrote a little while before he died:--


          CHARLES AND MARY LAMB,
Dear to my heart, yea, as it were _my heart_.
         S. T. C. Æt. 63, 1834.
                  1797
                  1834
                  ----
               37 years!

He drew his last breath on the 25th of July. At first Lamb seemed
wholly unable to grasp the fact that he was gone. "Coleridge is dead!"
he murmured continually, as if to convince himself. He 'grieved that
he could not grieve.' "But since," he wrote in that beautiful memorial
of his friend--the last fragment shaped by his hand--"but since, I
feel how great a part of me he was. His great and dear spirit haunts
me.... He was my fifty-year old friend without a dissension. Never saw
I his likeness, nor probably the world can see it again. I seem to
love the house he died at more passionately than when he lived. I love
the faithful Gillman's more than while they exercised their virtues
towards him living. What was his mansion is consecrated to me a
chapel."

A month after this was written Charles Lamb followed his friend. A
seemingly slight accident, a fall which wounded his face, brought on
erysipelas, and he sank rapidly, dying the 27th December 1834. For
once, Mary's affliction befriended her. Though her mind was not wholly
obscured at the time, for she was able to show the spot in Edmonton
churchyard where her brother had wished to be buried, yet it was so
far deadened that she was unable to comprehend what had befallen her;
and thus she remained for nearly a year.

None thought of Mary with tenderer sympathy than Landor, or strove
with more sincerity to offer "consolation to the finest genius that
ever descended on the heart of woman," as he fervently described her.
"When I first heard of the loss that all his friends, and many that
never were his friends, sustained in him," he wrote to Crabb Robinson,
"no thought took possession of my mind except the anguish of his
sister. That very night, before I closed my eyes, I composed this:--


    TO THE SISTER OF CHARLES LAMB.

    Comfort thee, O thou mourner! yet awhile
    Again shall Elia's smile
    Refresh thy heart, whose heart can ache no more.
    What is it we deplore?
    He leaves behind him, freed from grief and years,
    Far worthier things than tears,
    The love of friends without a single foe;
    Unequalled lot below!
    His gentle soul, his genius, these are thine;
    Shalt thou for these repine?
    He may have left the lowly walks of men;
    Left them he has: what then?
    Are not his footsteps followed by the eyes
    Of all the good and wise?
    Though the warm day is over, yet they seek
    Upon the lofty peak
    Of his pure mind, the roseate light that glows
    O'er death's perennial snows.
    Behold him! From the spirits of the blest
    He speaks: he bids thee rest.

About a month after her brother's death, their faithful old friend,
Crabb Robinson, went to see Mary. "She was neither violent nor
unhappy," he wrote in his diary, "nor was she entirely without sense.
She was, however, out of her mind, as the expression is, but she could
combine ideas, though imperfectly. On my going into the room where she
was sitting with Mr. Walden, she exclaimed, with great vivacity, 'Oh!
here's _Crabby_.' She gave me her hand with great cordiality, and
said, 'Now this is very kind--not merely good-natured, but very, very
kind to come and see me in my affliction.' And then she ran on about
the unhappy, insane family of my old friend ----. Her mind seemed to
turn to subjects connected with insanity as well as to her brother's
death. She spoke of Charles, of his birth, and said that he was a
weakly but very pretty child."

In a year's time she was herself once more; calm, even cheerful; able,
now and then, to meet old friends at the Moxons'. She refused to leave
Edmonton. "_He_ was there asleep in the old churchyard, beneath the
turf near which they had stood together, and had selected for a
resting-place; to this spot she used, when well, to stroll out
mournfully in the evening, and to this spot she would contrive to lead
any friend who came in summer evenings to drink tea, and went out with
her afterwards for a walk." Out of very love she was content to be the
one left alone; and found a truth in Wordsworth's beautiful saying,
that "a grave is a tranquillising object; resignation, in course of
time, springs up from it as naturally as the wild flowers besprinkle
the turf."

Lucid intervals continued, for a few years longer, to alternate with
ever-lengthening periods of darkness. That mysterious brain was not
even yet wholly wrecked by the eighty years of storms that had broken
over it. Even when the mind seemed gone the heart kept some of its
fine instincts. She learned to bear her solitude very patiently, and
was gentle and kind always. Towards 1840 her friends persuaded her to
remove to Alpha Road, St. John's Wood, that she might be nearer to
them. Thirteen years she survived her brother, and then was laid in
the same grave with him at Edmonton, May 28th, 1847; a scanty remnant
of the old friends gathering round,--"Martin Burney refusing to be
comforted."

Coleridge looked upon Lamb "as one hovering between heaven and earth,
neither hoping much nor fearing anything." Or, as he himself once,
with infinite sweetness, put it, "Poor Elia does not pretend to so
very clear revelations of a future state of being. 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." Of
Mary it may be said that she hoped all things and feared
nothing,--wisest, noblest attitude of the human soul toward the
Unknown.



LIST OF AUTHORITIES.

_Life, Letters, and Writings of Charles Lamb._ _Edited by Percy
Fitzgerald, M.A., F.S.A._ 1876.

_The Works of Charles Lamb._ _Edited by Charles Kent_ [in which, for
the first time, the dates and original mode of publication were
affixed to the Essays, &c.]. 1878.

_Poetry for Children, by Charles and Mary Lamb._ _Edited by Richard
Herne Shepherd._ 1878.

_Mrs. Leicester's School, by Charles and Mary Lamb._

_Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb._ 1807.

_Final Memorials of Charles Lamb, by Talfourd._ 1848.

_Charles Lamb: A Memoir, by Barry Cornwall._ 1866.

_Mary and Charles Lamb, by W. Carew Hazlitt._ 1874.

_My Friends and Acquaintance, by P. G. Patmore._ 1854.

_Letters, Conversations, and Recollections of Coleridge, by Thomas
Allsop._ Third edition. 1864.

_Early Recollections of Coleridge, by J. Cottle._ 1837.

_Biographia Literaria, by Coleridge._ Second edition. 1847.

_Life of Coleridge, by Gillman._ Vol. I. 1838.

_Memoirs and Letters of Sara Coleridge._ _Edited by her Daughter._
1873.

_Life of Wordsworth, by Rev. Dr. C. Wordsworth._ 1851.

_A Chronological List of the Writings of Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt,
preceded by an Essay on Lamb, and List of his Works, by Alex. Ireland;
printed for private circulation._ (The copy used contains many MS.
additions by the Author.) 1868.

_Recollections of Writers, by Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke._ 1878.

_Six Life Studies of Famous Women, by M. Betham Edwards._ 1880.

_Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb-Robinson._
_Edited by Dr. Sadler._ 1869.

_Memoir of William Hazlitt, by W. Carew Hazlitt._ 1867.

_Spirit of the Age._ & _Table Talk._ by _Hazlitt._ 1825, 1826.

_Autobiographical Sketches._ & _Lakes and Lake Poets._ by _De
Quincey._ 1863.

_William Godwin, his Friends and Contemporaries, by Kegan
Paul._ 1876.


LONDON
PRINTED BY W. H. ALLEN AND CO., 13 WATERLOO PLACE.



 Transcriber's note:

 Contemporary spellings, old word forms, and punctuation rules have
 been retained, even when inconsistent. The List of Authorities has
 been moved to the end of the volume.





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to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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