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mitting with a wise cheerfulness to necessity, and of standing upright under his burthen instead of stooping to make it heavier. Not but what he at times kicked against the clerk's stool, and almost cursed the desk at which he sat. He found his duties continually interfering with his tendency to write those delightful epistles to his friends. He complains to Cottle of those bothering clerks and brokers who' always press in proportion as you seem to be doing something that is not business. I could exclaim a little profanely, but I think you do not like swearing. On another occasion he did break out in what he calls a 'maddish letter' to Wordsworth, and exclaim a little profanely.' In despite of which, the clerkship was Lamb's best and only means of living by his pen. Hazlitt, who wrote with ten times the facility of Lamb, could hardly earn his bread by it. It was well for Lamb that he had not to live by literature. Six or seven hours' labour a day, with a steady income, always sure, always increasing, was a more sensible, a saner thing for Charles Lamb than if he had sought to work his imagination alone. The time came when he had enough to brood over, and he did not need more brooding-time. To find an anchorage six hours a day for his hurt mind and vagrant temperament, to be taken out of his introspective self, was a god-send to Charles Lamb. It is also better for the world. The literary result of his life is, that we have his best expressed in the smallest compass; and if we can get a man's best in four volumes, it is a pity that circumstances should compel him to dilute it into twenty.
They do say that Lamb was late at office sometimes, and that his superior remonstrated with him. Mr. Lamb,' says he, 'I am sorry to find that you are the last to arrive of a morning.' Oh, yes,' replied Lamb; but then you know, I make up for it. I am always the first to leave in the afternoon.' The official is said to have perceived something logical in the explanation, but to have had only a confused sense of its satisfactoriness.
Lamb spent six weeks in a lunatic asylum
In this year (1796) occurred the dreadful deed which beclouded the whole of Lamb's after life. The family had removed from the Temple to Little Queen Street, Holborn.
The father had left the service of Mr. Salt, and the mother was ill and bedridden. Mary had been nursing her mother day and night with the utmost devotedness: Of all people in the world,' says Lamb, she was most thoroughly devoid of all selfishness.' In the September of this year she became moody and queer, and on the 23rd of the month her madness broke loose. Just before dinner-time she snatched up a case-knife and ran round the room after the little girl who was her apprentice; hurled about the knives and forks, one of which struck her father on the forehead and felled him to the floor; then, as a climax to her frenzied fit, she stabbed her mother to the heart. Charles was at hand, but could only seize the knife and prevent her doing further mischief. Mary was placed in an asylum for a time, where her temporary recovery was rapid. But what a recovery!—the cloud of madness only passing away to reveal all the more clearly what the poor thing had done! Now arose the question whether the sister should be confined for life. The brother John advocated this, and other friends chimed in with his view. Mary herself expected it would be so.
I repeat, the time came when the dull drudgery at the India House was a blessing to poor Lamb, and the desk was a tangible something on which to lay hold and steady Poor thing [writes Charles], they say she his confused senses. There was an heredi- was but the other morning saying she knew she tary taint of insanity in Lamb's family. brothers would have it so; the other would wish must go to Bethlem for life; that one of her And when Charles had turned his twentieth it not, but be obliged to go with the stream; year this broke out in himself. He refers that she had often, as she passed Bethlem, to the immediate cause of madness in thought it likely: 'Here it may be my words to be yet quoted. On this occasion end my days.' FOURTH SERIES. LIVING AGE. VOL. V. 145.
farewell to his love's young dream - his one tender passion for some fair Alice W-n.' He many times mentions this young lady. In his Dream Children: a Reverie, he has a vision of what might have been had he married her; and he says:
I told how, for seven long years, in hope sometimes, sometimes in despair, yet persisting ever, I courted the fair Alice W--n; and, as much as children could understand, I explained to them what coyness, and difficulty, and denial, meant in maidens.
He speaks of a picture which he had seen
that beauty with the cool blue pastoral drapery, and a lamb; with the bright yellow Hertfordshire hair, and eye of walchet hue so like my
Charles, however, pleaded for her release, and promised to take her, and care for her and watch over her. And well he kept his word. Only one despairing cry did he utter through long years of painful endurance. In a letter to Coleridge, written May 12th, 1800, he almost wishes that poor Mary were dead. He had just seen her off to the asylum the day before. She will get better again,' he says; but this constant liability to relapse is dreadful.' Nor is it the least of their evils that her case and their story are so well known. They are in a manner marked, and have to hear the whisperings around them. On this occasion he writes with nothing in the as house but Hetty's dead body to keep him company. To-morrow I bury her (an old maid-servant of theirs); and then I shall be quite alone. My heart is quite sunk. I am completely shipwrecked. I almost wish that Mary were dead.' Indeed, this tale of the Lambs, brother and sister, going forth into their wilderness of woe to live their life of dual loneliness' is touch-upon him a good deal in his madness, as much almost as on another person, who ing as anything that ever took place since was the more immediate cause of my the going forth of Ishmael and his mother into the desert. It is a tale to shake the Alice, kept a little journal of his love for frenzy.' He wrote poetry, too, about his hearts of grown men, and make them yearn her, and tells us that his sister Mary would over this forlorn pair feelingly as ever the often lend an ear to his desponding loveheart of childhood aches over those pretty sick lay.' But the poetry is lost for us: babes' who wandered hand in hand to and the journal was burnt, his passion was put away, as it were a childish thing, when Lamb rose up in his sterner manhood for his terrible conflict with calamity. Did the lovely Alice quite fade away, one wonders; or did she not live on in that image of purity which ever nestled and smiled at the heart of Charles Lamb's life, clear and tremulous as the dew-drop in a flower, breathing sweetness and shedding grace?
fro in the wood, and
When they saw the darksome night,
closely as Lamb and his sister clung together, and dear as grew their companionship in such desolation, they were compelled to part so often, after all; to part with the bitterness of that separation when the mind of the one is about to enter its
cloud and leave all life dark for both the
one lost in the darkness within, the other left groping unavailingly in the darkness without. They generally knew when the worst fits of insanity were coming on, and Charles would ask for a day's absence from office as if for a day's pleasure. He would take his sister by the arm, and these two poor anguished souls made the best of their way to the asylum. They have been met, carrying the strait waistcoat with them, the tears running down their cheeks, hurrying along as fast as they could on purpose to get there before the gathering blackness burst and they were caught in the full fury of the storm.
In electing to live alone for his sister, Charles Lamb was undoubtedly bidding
After he had been in the lunatic asylum, he tells Coleridge that his head had run
thing heroic in thus giving up all to live Mind you, Lamb had no notion of anyfor his sister, yet the act, as De Quincy justly says, rises into a grandeur not parall eled once in a generation. And so we linger over it, and say all honour to him
Whom neither shape of danger could dismay,
Lamb was in his twenty-first year when he stood alone in the world, and took upon himself the burthen of his family. It was a desolate home and a desolate outlook to which Mary returned after the awful deed that deprived them of a mother. Great was their need of reliance on Him who, as
Charles said with his pathetic wit, 'tempers | memorable evenings once a week. There the wind to the shorn Lambs.'
to her senses
My poor, dear, dearest sister [Lamb writes], the unhappy and unconscious instrument of the Almighty's judgment on our house, is restored to a dreadful sense of what has passed; awful to her mind, but tempered with a religious resignation. She knows how to distinguish between a deed committed in a fit of frenzy and the terrible guilt of a mother's murder. She bears her situation as one who has no right to complain.
With what entireness Lamb lived for his sister, and with what affectionate solicitude he sought to solace her we may partly gather from one of his letters; he is speaking of visiting, and says:
It was not a family where I could take Mary with me, and I am afraid there is something of dishonesty in any pleasures I take with
He was 'all conscience and tender heart' to his sister. 'God love her!' he exclaims; may we two never love each other less.' And it may be added they never did. Mary Lamb was altogether worthy of her brother's love. In addition to the bond of affection which bound them together through affliction, she was a woman of great mental attractions. She was a continual reader. When in the asylum, Charles took care to furnish her with plenty of books, for they were like her daily bread. She was a delightful writer. Hazlitt held her to be the only woman he had met who could reason. Were I to give way to my feelings,' says Wordsworth, in the note to his poem on Charles Lamb, 'I should dwell not only on her genius and intellectual powers, but upon the delicacy and refinement of manner which she maintained inviolable under most trying circumstances. She was loved and honoured by all her brother's friends.'
After the death of his father, whose querulous selfishness in his dotage Lamb had borne with much meekness, he and his sister removed to Pentonville, where Lamb 'fell in love' with the beautiful Quakeress who used to pass him day after day, serenely unconscious of having a place in his regards. From Pentonville they removed to Southampton Buildings, on their way back to the Temple. This was in the year 1800. In the Temple, first at No. 16, Mitre Court, and next at No. 4, Inner Temple Lane, they dwelt for some sixteen years. And there it was that Lamb gathered about him such a group of famous men, and held his
was Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt, Barnes of the Times, and Haydon the painter, Carey the translator of Dante, Godwin and Thelwall, Jem White and George Dyer; sometimes Coleridge and Wordsworth, Manning and Talfourd, Hood, and the gay and gentlemanly murderer Janus Weathercock.
in his love of books. Speaking of Lamb's Lamb was as catholic in his friendship as library, Leigh Hunt observes:
There Mr. Southey takes his place again with an old radical friend; there Jeremy Collier is at peace with Dryden; there the lion Martin Luther lies down with the Quaker lamb Sewell.
So was it with his personal friends. His was the solvent of sweetness of nature strongest differences; his attraction was powerful enough to gather and hold together the widest opposites. Lamb had many illustrious friends, with whose names his own will be handed on in immortal companionship. But we do not feel that his best known literary friends were those who got the nearest to him. He himself proclaims that his intimados' were, to confess the truth, a ragged regiment 'in the eye of the world - - men whom he had found floating on the surface of society, and the colour or something else in the weed pleased him. The burrs stuck to him; but they were good, loving burrs for all that.' 'Some of Lamb's friends were strange characters,' says Wordsworth, whom his philanthropic peculiarities induced him to countenance.. And the stranger the character, that is, the more original and unsophisticated, the closer Lamb stuck to them. There was Jem White; he is nothing to the world now, yet, living, he was one of Lamb's earliest friends and most beloved of chums;' whom he could thoroughly cordialise with; and when he died, Lamb says, ' He carried away with him half the fun of the world, of my world, at least.' This pleasant fellow endeared himself to Lamb, by giving an annual supper to the poor boy chimney-sweepers of London, upon which occasions Lamb presided at one of the tables. His description of the feast is as good as Burns's Jolly Beggars, the humour of the thing being akin in some respects. Jem White was in his glory doing an act of kindness which yielded so much fun for Lamb, who laughed till his eyes filled with tears to see the sable younkers lick in the unctuous meat,' and listen to Jem's more unctuous sayings,' followed by a cheer from the whole dark host,,
at which hundreds of grinning teeth startled the sight with their brightness.'
If Jem White was one half the fun of Lamb's world, surely George Dyer was the other half. He was guileless as Nathaniel; simple and 'prodigious' as Dominie Sampson; an unsophisticated native of the golden age; a 'mild Arcadian, ever blooming with fresh delight for Lamb; a daily beauty in the London streets, his verdant simplicity looking like a bit of evergreen there. was as absent-minded as Bowles when he presented a friend with a copy of the Bible, and inscribed it from the author.' He had a head uniformly wrong, a heart uniformly right, and he dwelt in Clifford's Inn, said Lamb, like a dove on the asp's nest.' He was a friend indeed to Lamb. It was not merely what he said or did when present; be was for ever doing something that lasted Lamb for weeks in laughter. The very thought of him tickled Lamb to the heartroots. On one occasion he informed George that Lord Castlereagh was the author of the Waverley novels, and off he trotted to communicate the fact to Leigh Hunt, who, being a public writer, ought to be immediately made acquainted with a secret so important.
turns everything topsy-turvy. Of Martin Burney, Lamb said he was on the top round of his ladder of friendship up which angels were yet climbing, and one or two, alas, descending.
Well known is the great love of Charles Lamb for his favourite London. He was a true child of its streets by birth; its scenery formed his earliest picture-books; the first awakening images of his young life. The Hefresco of the Virtues which Italianised the end of Paper Buildings' gave him his earli est hint of Allegory. His nature had struck root among the bricks of the old City, and there it clung lovingly and blossomed like some fragrant trailer breathing sweetness and freshness as if all Cockneydom was in flower. London was his home in spite of its homelessness for those who so often migrate as Lamb had done. He never breathed so freely as in its thronged thoroughfares. He loved its very smoke because it had been the medium most familiar to his vision. He liked to feel the pulse of its mighty heart and be in the rush of its great river of life. Its murmurs made a music that he could appreciate; he had an ear' for that! I would live in London,' he cries, shirtless, bookless. I love the sweet security of streets, and would set up my tabernacle there. He tells us how he would walk the streets with the tears running down his face for joy and sympathy with the fulness of its life:
Is it true,' said Lamb to him, as commonly reported, that you are to be made a lord? Oh dear no, Mr. Lamb, I could not think of such a thing; it is not true, I assure you.' 'I thought not,' said Lamb, and I contradict it wherever I go but the Government will not ask your consent; they may raise you to the peerage without your ever knowing it.' I hope not, Mr. Lamb; indeed, indeed, I hope not; it would not suit me at all!' And Dyer went his way greatly bewildered, still pondering over the possibility of such a thing. The dear, good soul! What a god-send to Lamb was his unfathomable simplicity. How Lamb must have doated on his delightful unworldliness and crooned over him with murmurs made to bless.'
Other of his friends, such as Manning, Rickman, and Burney, Lamb must have been more fraternally familiar with than he could have been with the more famous men. "I am glad you esteem Manning,' he writes to Coleridge in 1826, though you see but his husk or shrine. He discloses not, save to select worshippers; and will leave the world without any one hardly but me knowing how stupendous a creature he is.' This was the gentleman who went to China, as Lamb suggested, to teach perspective to the Chinese, and to whom he wrote some of his most amazing letters, in which his humour
Streets, streets, streets; markets, theatres, churches; Covent Gardens; shops sparkling with pretty faces of industrious milliners, neat sempstresses, ladies cheapening, gentlemen behind counters lying; authors in the streets, with spectacles George Dyers (you know them by their gait); lamps lit at night; pastry-cooks and silver smiths' shops; beautiful Quakers of Pentonville; noise of coaches; drowsy cry of mechanic watchmen at night, with bucks reeling home drunk; if you happen to wake at midnight, cries of Fire!' and 'Stop thief!' inns-of-court, with their learned air, and halls book-stalls, Jeremy Taylors, Burtons on Melanand butteries just like Cambridge colleges; old these are thy pleasures, O London with thecholy, and Religio Medicis, on every stall;many-sins. O City, abounding in - for these may Keswick and her giant-brood go hang.
This must have sounded singular to Wordsworth, who was as great a lover of his mountain solitudes as was Lamb of his London streets. The poet held that his friend was a scorner of the fields' more in show than truth. But it does not seem to have been so. Lamb declares that his love
för natural scenery would be abundantly | nourishment from the country world of satisfied by the patches of long waving grass grass and leaves, jargoning of birds, lapse and the stunted trees that blackened in of pleasant waters, field scents or freshness some of the old church yards bordering on of flowers. He asked not the baptism of the Thames, and that a mob of happy faces the dewy dawn, or benediction of the closcrowding up at the pit door of Drury Lane ing day in any rural solitude. He could Theatre, just at the hour of six, gave him live and grow, and keep his nature leafy in ten thousand sincerer pleasures than he London. This is a fact in human nature as could have received from all the flocks of interesting in a literary point of view, silly sheep that ever whitened the plains of and as surprising as is the novel fact, so Arcadia or Epsom Downs. delightful to boyhood when it learns, for the first time, that mustard and cress may be grown with a bit of flannel and a drop of water, and does not need to take root in the earth at all.
As he told Wordsworth, he certainly was not in the least romance-bit about Nature. He paid the great poet a visit in 1802. He entered the Lake country towards the close of a splendid day, and saw the monntains lying grand in a gorgeous sunset:
Such an impression [he says] I never received from objects of sight. Glorious creatures! I shall never forget how ye lay about, in the dusk, like an entrenchment-gone to bed, as it seemed, for the night.
They haunted him after his return to London. But the great live city soon regained its old supremacy in his regards. Mountains he admitted were grand things to look at, but houses in streets were the places to live in! And it was there that he most appreciated the country. He liked to hear the waters murmur, and leaves rustle, and birds sing, in the pages of some favourite book, he being shut in and safe within the sound of London. 'But,' he remarks by way of warning, let not the lying poets be believed, who entice men from the cheerful
After his thirty-three years' service at the India House, Lamb was set free with a pension of 400l. a year. He made immense fun of his situation, or rather his out-ofsituation. He was like a man suddenly released from the law of gravitation, who could not touch solid earth, and was blown hither and thither by every gust of his new life. At first he could but dimly apprehend his felicity, and was too confused to taste its fulness. He tells us that he wandered about thinking he was happy and knowing he was not. He could scarcely trust himself with himself. It was like passing out of time into eternity-for it is a sort of eternity when a man has all his time to himself. Unfortunately Lamb found that no work was worse than overwork. More particularly when he had retired into the country to spend his latter days. His leaving London we look upon as a huge mistake. London was his true city of refuge; he who shared so largely in that feeling which made Charles Lloyd take lodgings in his more melancholy fits, at a brazier's shop in Fetter Lane, close to Fleet Street, to drown his morbid thoughts with the roar of the city. The pity was that he and Mary could not have found such a home as Cole. ridge did among wise and generous friends.
He preferred to be shut in-doors with a book on a winter's evening to the finest summer sunset. I dread the prospect of summer,' he exclaimed, when he was in the country, with his all-day long days. No need of his assistance to make the country dull.' On being asked how he felt when amongst the mountains and lakes of Cum- It is curious to note in connection with this berland, he said, humorously, he was obliged life-long feeling of Lamb's that he died at to think of the ham and beef shop at the last and was buried in the country. He corner of St. Martin's Lane. As though died at Edmonton on December 27th, 1884, he felt it necessary to steady himself upon his end being somewhat sudden. His old this common-place bit of well known reality friends had been failing and fading away amid the dizzying sublimities of nature. one by one; he greatly missed their old One of the most provocative and enter- familiar faces - especially that of Coleridge, taining aspects of Lamb's character lies in his friend for fifty years. One day when this discovery, that all his manifold simplici- out for a morning walk he stumbled against ties of nature and fragrant blossoming of a loose stone and fell. This, as he would delicate fancies, his love of the choice have been delighted to point out, would things in poetry, his keen zest for unsophisticated human beings, his sensibilities of a tremulous tenderness, had no root in a love of external nature. He needed no mental
hardly have happened in London. His face was slightly wounded and erysipelas followed. He had not the strength left to combat the disease, and he sank gradually, be