« AnteriorContinuar »
communicate, or that it was wise to one does not know where to look for add. Many of the letters of Lamb it. And, apropos of this matter of here printed are such as he had very reference, it may be just worth menproperly laid aside, in the first in- tioning that the present volume is so stance, not because they trenched upon divided into Parts, and the parts so too delicate ground, but because they paged, that any reference to a passage were wholly uninteresting. He had by the number of the page is almost very correctly said, in what, for dis- useless. The numbers recommence tinction's sake, we will call The Life some half-dozen times in the course "I have thought it better to omit of the volume; so that if you are much of this verbal criticism, which, referred to page 50, you may find five not very interesting in itself, is un- of them—you may find page 50 five intelligible without a contemporary times over before you come to the reference to the poems which are its right one. For which reason we shall subject."-(P. 12.) Now we cannot, dispense ourselves, in respect to this of course, undertake to say that the volume, with our usual punctuality of letters given us here are precisely reference, for the reference must be those which he speaks of as being laboriously minute, and even then wisely rejected on the former occa- will impose a troublesome search. In sion, but we know that there was the the mere and humble task of editing, same good reason for this rejection, the Serjeant has been by no means for they are occupied with a verbal fortunate. criticism utterly uninteresting. Surely Lying about in such confusion as what neither illustrates a man's life, the fractions of the biography do at nor adds a tittle to his literary repu- present, we shall perhaps be rendering tation, ought not to be allowed to a slight service if we bring together encumber for ever, as with a dead from the two different publications weight, the collected works of an the leading events of the life of Lamb. author. The mischief is, that, if mate- " Charles Lamb," says the first rials of this kind are once published, publication, “was born on the 18th every succeeding editor finds it in- February 1775, in Crown-office Row, cumbent on him to reprint them, lest in the Inner Temple, where he spent his edition should be thought less the first seven years of his life.” At perfect than others, and thus there is the age of seven he was presented to no getting rid of the useless and bur- the school of Christ's Hospital, and densome increment. It is otherwise there remained till his fifteenth year. with another portion of these two His sweetness of disposition rendered volumes, the sketches of the contem- him a general favourite. From one poraries and friends of Lamb, which of his schoolfellows we have the folMr Serjeant Talfourd, or any future lowing account of him :-“ Lamb,” editor, can either retrench, omit, or says Mr Le Grice, “was an amiable, enlarge, at his option.
gentle boy, very sensible, and keenly In the next edition that is published observing, indulged by his schoolof the works of Lamb, we hope the fellows and by his master, on account editor may be persuaded altogether of his infirmity of speech. His counto recast his materials. The bio- tenance was mild; his complexion graphy should be kept apart, and not clear brown, with an expression which interspersed piecemeal amongst the might lead you to think that he was of letters. This is an arrangement, the Jewish descent. His eyes were not most provoking and irritating to the each of the same colou—one was reader that could have been devised. hazel, the other had specks of gray Let us have all the biography at once, in the iris, mingled as we see red and then sit down and enjoy the spots in the bloodstone. His step was letters of Lamb. Why be incessantly plantigrade, (Mr Le Grice must be a bandied from the one to the other ? zoologist-Lamb would have smiled Few of the letters need any explana- to hear himself so scientifically detion ; if they do, the briefest note at scribed,) which made his walk slow the head or at the foot would be suffi- and peculiar, adding to the staid apcient. Not to add, that, if it is wished pearance of his figure. I never heard to refer to any event in the biography, his name mentioned without the addition of Charles, although, as there arms, carried him, seated him on a was no other boy of the name of post in St Paul's Churchyard, and Lamb, the addition was unnecessary; there left him. This story Lamb told but there was an implied kindness in so seriously, that the truth of it was it, and it was a proof that his gentle never doubted. He wore his threemanner excited that kindness." Mr cornered hat many evenings, and reLe Grice adds that, in the sketch Lambtained the name of Guy ever after. gave in his Recollections of Christ's Like Nym, he quietly sympathised in Hospital, he drew a faithful portrait of the fun, and seemed to say that was himself. “While others were all fire the humour of it.'" Some one may and play, he stole along with all the suggest that probably Lamb was bimself-concentration of a young monk," self in the same condition, on this 5th He had, in fact, only passed from of November, as the young men “ who cloister to cloister, and, during the had not passed the London Tavern holidays, it was in the Temple that he without resting," and that therefore all found his home and his only place of peculiar significance of the anecdote, recreation. This cloistering-in of his as it bears upon his character and dismind was the early and constant position, is entirely lost. But Lamb peculiarity of his life. He would have relates the story himself, and aftermade an excellent monk; in those wards, and when there is no question good old times, be it understood, when of sobriety, quietly acquiesces and it was thought no great scandal if participates in the absurd joke played there was a well-supplied cellarage upon himself. underneath the cloister.
At this time his most constant comAfter quitting Christ's Hospital, he panion was one Jem White, who wrote was employed for some time in the some imaginary “ Letters of John South Sea House, but on the 5th April Falstaff.” These letters Lamb went 1792 obtained that appointment in the about all his life praising, and causing accountant's office in the East India others to praise, but seems never to Company which was his stay and have found anyone to share his support, in more senses than one, admiration. As even Mr Talfourd through life.
has not a good word to throw away A little anecdote is here introduced, upon the literary merits of Jem White, which strikes us as very characteristic. we may safely conclude that Lamb's It reveals the humorist, ready to friendship had in this instance quite appreciate and promote a jest even at overruled his critical judgment. his own expense, and at the easy B ut the associate and friend who sacrifice of his own dignity or self- really exercised a permanent and respect : but it reveals something formative influence upon his mind, more and sadder; it seems to betray a was a man of a very different stamp broken, melancholy spirit, that was no -Samuel Taylor Coleridge. They longer disposed to contend for its claim had been schoolfellows at Christ's to respect from others. “In the first Hospital, and, though no particular year of his clerkship," says Mr Le intimacy existed at that time, the Grice, " Lamb spent the evening of circumstance formed a foundation for the 5th November with some of his a future friendship. " While Coleformer schoolfellows, who, being ridge," writes Mr Talfourd, "remainamused with the particularly large and ed at the university, they met occaflapping brim of his round hat, pinned sionally on his visits to London; and it up on the sides in the form of a when he quitted it and came to town, cocked hat. Lamb made no alteration full of mantling hopes and glorious in it, but walked home in his usual schemes, Lamb became his admiring sauntering gait towards the Temple. disciple. The scene of these happy As he was going down Ludgate Hill, meetings was a little public-house, some gay young men, who seemed called the Salutation and Cat, in the not to have passed the London Tavern neighbourhood of Smithfield, where without resting, exclaimed, "The they used to sup, and remain long veritable Guy!-no man of straw i' after they had heard the chimes at and with this exclamation they took midnight.'" him up, making a chair with their These suppers at the Salutation and Cat, in Smithfield, seem to carry back “It appeared," says the account exthe imagination far beyond the period tracted from the Times, (an account here alluded to; they seem to trans- of the inquest, in which the names of port us to the times of Oliver Gold- the parties are suppressed,) “ that smith, or to take us across the water while the family were preparing for into Germany, where poetry and dinner, the young lady seized a casephilosophy may still occasionally find knife lying on the table, and in a refuge in the beer-shop. They were menacing manner pursued a little girl, always remembered by Lamb as the her apprentice, round the room. On brightest spots of his life. “I think the calls of her infirm mother to forI hear you again," he says, writing to bear, she renounced her first object, Coleridge. “I imagine to myself the and with loud shrieks approached her little smoky room at the Salutation parent. The child by her cries quickly and Cat, where we sat together through brought up the landlord of the house, the winter nights, beguiling the cares but too late. The dreadful scene preof life with poetry." And in another sented to him the mother lifeless, place he alludes to those old suppers pierced to the heart, on a chair, her at our old inn—when life was fresh daughter yet wildly standing over her and topics exhaustless--and you first with the fatal knife, and the old man, kindled in me, if not the power, yet her father, weeping by her side, himthe love of poetry, and beauty, and self bleeding at the forehead from the kindliness.” It was in these inter- effects of a severe blow he received views that the project was started, we from one of the forks she had been believe, of publishing a volume of madly hurling about the room." poems, the joint production of the two The following is the letter which friends.
Lamb wrote to Coleridge shortly after But this pleasing project, and all the event. From this it appears tbat the poetry of life, was for a time to it was he, and not the landlord, who give place, in the bistory of Lamb, to took the knife from the hand of the a domestic tragedy of the most afflict- lunatic. ing nature. It is here that the Final “MY DEAREST FRIEND,-White, Memorials take up the thread of the or some of my friends, or the public biography. It was on the 22d papers, by this time may have inSeptember 1796, that the terrible formed you of the terrible calamities event took place which cast so per- that have fallen on our family. I petual a shade, and reflected also so will only give you the outlines. My constant an honour, on the life of poor, dear, dearest sister, in a fit of Lamb. He was living at this time insanity, has been the death of her with his father, mother, and sister, own mother. I was at hand only in lodgings in Little Queen Street, time enough to snatch the knife out Holborn. After being engaged in his of her grasp. She is at present in a taskwork at the India House, he madhouse, from whence I fear she returned in the evening to amuse his must be removed to an hospital. God father by playing cribbage. The old has preserved to me my senses. I man had sunk into dotage and the eat, and drink, and sleep, and have miserable selfishness that so often my judgment, I believe, very sound. attends on old age. If his son wished My poor father was slightly wounded, to discontinue for a time the game at and I am left to take care of him and cribbage, and turn to some other my aunt. Mr Norris of the Blue-coat avocation, or the writing of a letter, School has been very kind to us, and he would pettishly exclaim,-"If you we have no other friend; but, thank don't play cribbage, I don't see the use God, I am very calm and composed, of your coming home at all." The and able to do the best that remains to mother also was an invalid, and Miss do. Write as religious a letter as Lamb, we are told, was worn down possible, but no mention of what is to a state of extreme nervous misery, gone and done with. With me the by attention to needlework by day, former things are passed away,' and I and to her mother by night, until the have something more to do than to feel. insanity which had been manifested God Almighty have us all in his more than once broke out into frenzy. keeping!-C. LAMB.
“Mention nothing of poetry; I have the authorities (whoever they were destroyed every vestige of past vani. and about this matter there seems a ties of that kind. Do as you please; singular obscurity, and a suspicion is but if you publish, publish mine (I created that even in proceedings of give free leave) without name or this nature much is done carelessly, initial, and never send me a book, I informally, uncertainly) in refusing to charge you.
accede to his request. Miss Lamb “Your own judgment will convince had several relapses into temporary you not to take any notice of this yet derangement; and, although she never to your dear wife. You look after committed, as far as we are informed, your family-I have my reason and any acts of violence, this calmness of strength left to take care of mine. I behaviour, in her seasons of mental charge you, don't think of coming to aberration, could not have been calsee me-write. I will not see you if culated on. We confess we should you come. God Almighty love you, have shrunk from the responsibility and all of us."-C. LAMB.".
of advising the generous but perilous Miss Lamb was of course placed in course which was adopted with so an asylum, where, however, she was fortunate a result. in a short time restored to reason. How sad and fearful a charge And now occurred the act of life-long Lamb had entailed upon himself, let heroism on the part of the brother. the following extract suffice to show. As soon as she was recovered, he The subject is too painful to be longer petitioned the authorities to resign dwelt upon than is necessary. The her to his care; he pledged himself to constant impendency of this great be her guardian, her provider, her sorrow saddened to the Lambs' even keeper, for all her days to come. He their holidays, as the journey which was at that time paying his addresses they both regarded as the relief and to a young lady, with what hopes, or charm of the year was frequently folwith what degree of ardour, we are lowed by a seizure; and, when they not informed. But marriage with ventured to take it, a strait-waistcoat, her, or with any other, was now to carefully packed up by Miss Lamb herbe entirely renounced. He devoted self, was their constant companion. his life, and all his love, to his un- Sad experience at last induced the happy sister, and to the last he ful- abandonment of the annual excurfilled the obligation he had taken upon sion, and Lamb was contented with himself without a murmur, and with- walks in and near London during the out the least diminution of affection interval of labour. Miss Lamb expetowards the object of it.
rienced, and full well understood, preWe have called it an act of heroism; monitory symptoms of the attack, in we applaud it, and rejoice that it restlessness, low fever, and the inabistands upon record a complete and lity to sleep; and, as gently as posaccomplished act. There it stands, sible, prepared her brother for the not only to relieve the character of duty he must soon perform ; and thus, Lamb from such littleness as it may unless he could stave off the terrible have contracted from certain habits of separation till Sunday, obliged him to intemperance, (of which perhaps more ask leave of absence from the office as has been said than was necessary;) if for a day's pleasure-a bitter but it remains there as an enduring mockery! On one occasion Mr memorial, prompting, to all time, to Charles Lloyd met them slowly the like acts of self-denying kindness, pacing together a little footpath in and unshaken generosity of purpose. Haxton Fields, both weeping bitterly, But, admiring the act as we do, we and found, on joining them, that they must still be permitted to observe, were taking their solemn way to the that there was 3 degree of impru- accustomed asylum !"* dence in it which fully justified other It seems that a tendency to lunacy members of the family in their endea was hereditary in the family, and vours to dissuade Lamb from his reso. Charles Lamb himself had been for a lution, and which would have justified short period deprived of his reason.
* Final Memorials, vol. ii., p. 212.
On this subject Mr Talfourd makes associate his labours in the forthcomthe following excellent remark :- ing volume. “At length," says Mr 66 The wonder is, that, amidst all the Talfourd, “ the small volume condifficulties, the sorrows, and the ex taining the poems of Coleridge, Lloyd, citements of his succeeding forty and Lamb, was published by Mr years, the malady never recurred. Cottle at Bristol. It excited little Perhaps the true cause of this remark- attention." We do not wonder at able exemption-an exemption the this, if the lucubrations of Mr Lloyd more remarkable when his afflictions had any conspicuous place in the voare considered in association with one lume. How the other two poets-how single frailty-will be found in the Coleridge especially, could have consudden claim made on his moral and sented to this literary partnership, with intellectual nature by a terrible exi so singularly inept and absurd a writer, gency, and by his generous answer to would be past explaining, if it were that claim; so that a life of self-sacri not for some hint that we receive that fice was rewarded by the preservation Charles Lloyd was the son of a wealthy of unclouded reason."
banker, and might, therefore, be the We will not weaken so admirable a fittest person to transact that part of remark by repeating it in a worse the business which occurs between the phraseology of our own. We wish author and the publisher. Here we the Serjeant always wrote in the have a striking instance of Mr Talsame clear, forcible, and unaffected fourd's misplaced amiability of critimanner. With respect to this seizure cism. “ Lloyd," he says, " wrote which Lamb, in an early part of his pleasing verses, and with great facility life, bad experienced, there is a refe- -a facility fatal to excellence; but rence in one of his letters too cu- his mind was chiefly remarkable for rious to pass unnoticed. Writing to the fine power of analysis which disColeridge, he says-" At some future tinguishes his · London,' and other of time I will amuse you with an ac- his later compositions. In this power count, as full as my memory will per- of discriminating and distinguishingmit, of the strange turns my frenzy carried to a pitch almost of paintook. I look back upon it at times fulness - Lloyd has scarcely been with a gloomy kind of envy, for, equalled ; and his poems, though rugwhile it lasted, I had many, many hours ged in point of versification, will be of pure happiness. Dream not, Cole found, by those who will read them ridge, of having tasted all the gran- with the calm attention they require, deur and wildness of fancy till you replete with critical and moral suggeshave gone mad! All now seems to tions of the highest value.” Very me vapid, or comparatively so." grateful to Mr Serjeant Talfourd will
The residue of Lamb's life is un any reader feel who shall be induced, eventful. The publication of a book by his recommendation, to peruse, or -a journey into Cumberland - his attempt to peruse, Mr Lloyd's poem final liberation from office, are the of “ London !" We were. "Fine chief incidents. These it is not ne- power of analysis !" Why, it is one cessary to arrange in chronological stream of mud-of theologic mud. order: they can be alluded to as occa- - Rugged in point of versification !" sion requires. But we will pursue a There is no trace of verse, and the little further our notice of Mr Tal- style is an outlandish garb, such as fourd's biographical labours, that we no man has ever seen elsewhere, may clear our way as we proceed. either in prose or verse. Poor Lloyd
We have seen that Lamb, in the was a lunatic patient !-on him no one first agony of his grief, rudely threw would be severe; but why should an aside his poetry, and his scheme of intelligent Serjeant, unless prompted publishing conjointly with Coleridge. by a sly malice against all mankind, Poetry and schemes of publication persuade us to read his execrable are not, however, so easily dismissed. stuff? The following is a fair speciAs his mind subsided into a calmer men of the drug, and is, indeed, taken state, they were naturally resumed. as the book opened. We add the two The literary partnership was ex- last lines of the preceding stanza, to tended, and Lloyd was admitted to give all possible help to the elucida