MR. TALFOURD's LIFE AND LETTERS OF CHARLEs LAMB.
THE incidents in the life of Cit var.1:ti LAMB are few and conanon- place ; and the circumstance which determined Iris pursuit of lite- rature may probably be resolved into a eltool acquaintance with COLERIDGE. T110 lather of LAMB was "eleik and servant " to a benches of the Inner T, triple; his mother was a woman of ap- pearance so commanding that " mieht have been taken fur a sister of Mrs. Sidtlons; " and both parents, amending to Mr. Tete FOURD, though in a humble station, " were endued with senti- ments and with manoers which might well become the gentlest blood; and fortune, which had denied diem wealth, enabled them to bestow on their children some of the happiest intelleclual advantages which wealth ever confers." NVhat these advantages were, is not made palpable; unless it be in the home trainiug which gave them, or at least CHARLES, a love of snug carnal comforts and a certain kind of veneration tor material grandeur, with a saturnalian freedom of shrewd small comment, t1n are so characteristically blended in the most delightful of his work..
But to commence the narrative. CHARLES LAMB was born in 1775 ; and in 1762, when in his eighth year, he was presented by a Mr. YE ATES to " the school of Clir;st's Hospital." Here he remained for seven years, having Couiltinee for a schoolfellow ; end ac- quiring a competent knowledge of Latin, as well us making some progress in Greek, though the authors he had got through were not numerous; being only "Virgil, S:i lust, Terence, selections from Lucian's Dialogues and Xenophoo." During this period, tor, he had access to the library of Mr. SALT. a bendier, and passed much of his holyilays in " good old English readiug." The impediment in his speech (we believe a stammer) prevented him from obtaining an exhibition to the University ; and in 1789 he quitted the Bluecoat School, for a clerkship in the South Sea House, tinder his brother. In little more than two years after- wards (1792) he obtained an appointment, with a small but wel- come salary, in the Accountant's Office of the East India Company ; and here, his salary gradually increasing, he remained till 1825 ; when he retired, on an allowance of 4111. a year. During this long period of thirty-three years, LAMB'S public life was only distinguished by his efforts in literature. Of these, his maiden one (1796) was soma poems published by COTTLE in a volume where COLERIDGE and LLOYD mele their appearance; which connexion gave currency to LAMB'S name, at bast, through the well.known lines in the Antijacobin- " And ye five other wandering bards, that move In sweet accord of harmony and love, Coleridge and Southey, Lloyd, and Lamb and Cu. Tune all your mystic harps to praise Lepaux."
In 1798 he published Rosamond Grey ; in 1800 he wrote his tragedy of John Wooded ; which, with a few other poems, ap- peared the next year, after JOHN KEMBLE had declined it with " lofty courtesy," and which was slashingly reviewed in the Edin- burgh. At this time, by means of COLERIDGE, whose " flighty pen" had "Lent to the Morning Post its aristocracy," CHARLES became connected with the daily press, in order to eke out his scanty income; but soon resigned the toil. In 1805-6 the farce of Mr. II-- was written, accepted, and datrmed ; the author bearing its fate philosophically, though he had amused himself with speculations on its success and its profits, as well as in practising the bond in which lie should write " orders for the boxes." About 1808 appeared the first work of his which at- tracted favourable attention—the Specimens of English Dramatic Poets ; and, besides writing a few juvenile toles, in 1810 he con- tributed to LEIGH HUNT'S quarterly speculation called the Re- flector. From the decease of that journal till the establishment of the London Magazine, (1820,) LAMB seems to have been idle. He was then inlisted as a contributor for that racy publication, where his first Essays of ELIA appeared, and where was also pub- lished his sharp and powerful Letter to SOUTHEY, in consequence of some attacks upon the writer in the Quarterly. When the long-wished for and long-looked fur leisure—the ease with com- petence came, LAMB seems to have relaxed his efforts : the viva- city of youth, the stimulus of hope, the spur of necessity, were gone. During the last ten years of his life, be produced nothing of consequence,save an additional volume of the Essays of ELIA ; but it should be said that he assisted HONE, then ineffectually struggling to maintain his family, both by his pen and his re- searches for the Year Books, &c.
Of his private career there is no more to be told than of any other mortal who lives to sixty, perhaps less. Mr. TALFOURD hints of a love affair in his teens: but beyond this, LAMB'S life consisted in the daily business of the India House; an occasional change of lodgings; an annual excursion, after his means ad- mitted it ; thegradual extension of his friends and connexions till he numbered amongst his intimates or his acquaintance many literary man of mark or merit, and some of neither one nor the other, and the mauagement of a pretty extensive correspondent*. Shortly before his retirement from the India House, he rose to the dignity of a housekeeper in a cottage at Islington. Soon after it, he withdrew from Loudon to Enfield and Edmonton ; where he passed the rest of his life, dying in December 1834. The cause of this withiliawal from the tally place he ever loved, was hie sistet's health, and perhaps his own. Never very able to resist
convivial temptetion, he seems to have felt that now the eheek or the daily appearance at lave was removed, his safer plan of re. siting the Dot it wee to flee from him.
In dealieg NI a biugra phy so destitute of circumstances, there was, of course, little for Mr. TALFOURD to do; that latle he hei dent: eleoautiv, eloquently, but scarcely well. He attributes hieher nee it, it' net greeter deserving to hi: hero, tl.a n he could rightly chino ; end paints with a pencil whose touch i3 too refined - aud w-hose 'wee ;I:v to del.c.ce for the grute•qae and somewhat
character of the original. Hence a degree of indistinct-
ness iu the portrait, which will not convey to htrawAers a clear notion of the mall, th,,Itgh it may recall !innto acquatn'anee who beheld with Mr. Teseoceo's eyes. The style is also somewhat ' uusubetatitial—as beuut du; but us evanescent as the clouds of evening : and like them, too, bathed in a purple light, " the purple light of love."
We should imagine, however, that the character of Cnenett
Lewin was an exceedingly delicult one to be properly painted to description, ua account o!' the strange and opposite peculiaritiet of which he was compounded. Ile was a poet in thought and feclieg, if not in reach and power; and some scattered anecdotes tend to show that he had the most perfect gentleman's notions of propriety, and could administer a rebuke in the most I i:nely,
and effeeive manner. For example, " one evening when Irving and Coleridge were in company and a young gentleman had spoken
slightingly. of religion, La remained silent ; but when the party broke up, he said to the youth who had thus annoyed his guests, ' Pray, did you come here in a hat, Sir, or in a turban: '" His allections, too, seem to have been of the warmest hind; his heart tender, and his charityonlylimited by his means. Oa the other hand, his views were bounded if not narrow ; his aspirations were earth-barn, and never got above it ; fur we find hint writing to Coeettinee, that he had no Wisher ideas of heaven than were yielded by the remembrance of COLERIDGE'S company at the fue• side of the Cat en 1 Salutation. His habits, tested by the custom of his time—the only test—were of a coarse or rather of a low kind. He smoked morning and night, and noon seemed only ex- copied by the discipline of the India House ; he had a liquorish tooth, indulging in solid relishes of a pot-house kind, till in later life he rose to the dignity of roast pig, and at last, a little before his death, to that of roust hare; whilst be bad a natural disposition to tipple, or in the prettier phrase of the Sergeant, "the eagerness with which he would quaff exciting liquors, from an early period of life, proved, that to physical peculiarity of constitution was to be ascribed, in the first instance, the strength of the temptation with which he was assailed." his manners, also, appear to have been of an odd kind, dashed with equivocal and ill-timed jests and in
pranks of behaviour ; so much so, that during the even-
ing on which GODWIN was first introduced to him, the polite philosopher, in allusion to an Anti-Jacobin caricature of GILRAit, where LLOYD figured as a toad and LAMB as a frog, exclaimed, " Mr. Lamb, are you both load and frog ?" We can readily imagine that such a man, with an infantile simplicity and an inde- scribable charm of manner, should be endeared, even for his very failings, to his friends, who knew him thoroughly; but it is diffi- cult to bring out such a compound in verbal representation.
The Letters, of which by far the greater portion of the volumes
consist, and whose settings furm a considerable part of the Life, are of various kinds. Some are strictly autobiographical; expres- sing LAMB'S feelings, describing his views, his hopes, and his em- ployments, as well as his circumstances. Others are more of the nature of literary compositions ; consisting of criticisms, and pieces of humour, similar though on a smaller scale to the Essays of Elia. Many combine both kinds; being personal in their subject and artistica' in their treatment; whilst several are exertions of active benevolence undertaken fir others. At the same time, it must be said, that not a few are commonplace or unsuccessful specimens of over elaboration; and might well have been spared from the collection.
In a per point of view, the earliest letters are the most in- teresting; for they picture the mind of a young and friendless au- thor with aspirations far above his means when thrown upon the world without prospects or connexions. Of this kind are the fol- lowing, written during 1796. lu the year 179d, Coleridge having married and relinquished his epleadid dream of emigration, was resident at Bristol ; and Lamb, who bad quitted the Temple and lived with his father, then sinking into dotage, felt his Inseam from London bitterly, and sought a correspondence with him, as almost hisonly comfort. '• In your absence," he writes, in one of the earliest of his letter* " I fed a stupor which makes me inditferent to the hopes and fears of this life. I sometimes wish to induce a religious turn of mind ; but habits are stubborn things, and my religious fervours are confined to some fleeting moments of oc- casional solitary devotion. A contspoudenee opening with you has roused we a little from my lethargy, and made me conscious of existence. Indulge roe is it ; I will not be very troublesome." And again, a few days after : " You an the only correspondent, and, I might add, the only friend 1 have in the world., I go nowhere, and have no acquaintance. Slow of speech, and reserved el manners, no one seeks or cares for my society, and I am left alone. Coleridge, I devoutly wish that Fortune, which has made sport with you so long, fay play one prank more, throw you into London, or some spot near it, and the!" snugify you for life. 'Tis a selfish but natural with for me, cast on life's pies
friendless." e • • •
Coleridge, to the fortunes of my sister awl my poor old father.
I am wedded,
I think sometimes, could I recali.the days that ere. past, which
Oh, my friend,
among them should I choose? not those " merrier days" not the " pleasant days of hope," not those wanderings with a faiohaired maid," which I have often and so feelingly regretted, but the days Coleridge, of a mother's fund. so for her schoolboy. What would I give to call her hark to earth fur one dsv, on my knees to ask her pardon fat all those little asperities of temper which, from time to time, have give n her gentle spirit in ! and the dal., my friend. I trust, will conic, there will he " time enough" for kind others of love, if Heaven's eternal year" be ours. Hereafter, her meek spirit *hall not me proaeh me. Oh, my friend, cultivate the filial lielinge, and let no man think himself released from the kiud " chalities" of relatiuuship ; these shall give him peace at the list. The limited means of his early life, and other circumstances of society or disposition, appear to have given him a number of poor friends; • and there are several passages deseripitte of real di revs, scattered throughout the Letters. Whilst the following extract conveys a picture of this nature, it also serves to exhibit the min- gled kindness and delicacy of LAMB.
Dear Southey—Your faked John May has formerly made kind offers to Lloyd of serving me in the India 'louse, by the interest of his friend, Sir Francis Baring. It is not likely that I shall ever put hie goodness to the test on my own account, for my prospects are very entilf irtable. But I knov a man, a young man, whom he could serve through the same channel, and I think would he disposed to serve, it' he were acquainted with his ease. This poor fellow (whom I know just enough of to vouch fur his strict integrity and worth) has lost two or three employments from illness, which he cannot regain ; he was once insane, and, and from the distressful uncertainty of his livelihood. bas rca • eon to apprehend a return of that malady. Ile has been for some time dependent on a woman, whose lodger he formerly was, but who can ill affinal to maintain him ; and I know that on Christmas night last he actu illy avallseil :about the streets all night rather than accept of her bed, which sheediered lino, and offered herself to sleep in the kitchen ; and that. in consequence of that severe raid, he is labouring under a bilious disorder, besides a depression of spirits, l‘ltich in- capacitates hint from exertion when he most needs it. For God's sake, Southey, if it does not go against you to ask favours, do it now ; ask it .ts for me ; but do not do a violence to your feelings, because he does not know of this application, and will suffer no disappoitoment. What I meant to say was this—these are in the India House what are called extra eireks, not oil the est iblisb:ient, like me,
but employed in extra business, lay. job, ; these get :thout 501. a year, or rather more, but never rise a Director can put in at any time a young man in this
office, and it is by no means considered so great a favour as making an eats. bushed clerk. lie would think himself as rich as an emperor, if he could get such a certain situation, and he relieved from those disquietudes which, I do fear, may one day bring hack his distemper.
You know John !flay better than I do ; but I know enough to believe that he is a good man: he dial make me that offer I have mentioned, but you will perceive that such an offer cannot authorise me in applying for another person.
But I cannot help writing to you on the subject, for the young man is per- petually before my eyes; and I shall feel it a crime not to strain all any- petty in.
terest to do him service, though I put my own delicacy to the question by so doing. I have made one other unsuccessful attempt already ; at all events I will thank you to write, for I am tormented with anxiety.
Can the following allude to COLERIDGE ? The world, the camp the University, point to him; and LAMB was not likely to be ac- quainted with many University-men who would have played at cards with his father in the way described. On the other hand, Mr.Tateouan would hardly have suppressed a fact which shows the close degree of intimacy existing between LAMB and CoLn- RIDGE in their school days. The letter was written not lung after LAMB'S equivocal epistle to his friend; which, however, has a much more insulting appearance in Mr. CurrtE's book than in the one before us.
Poor I am afraid the world, and the camp, and the University, have
spoilt him amongst them. 'Tis certain he had at one time a strong capacity of turning out something better. I knew him, and that not long since, when he had a most warm heart. I am ashamed of the indifference I have sometimes felt towards him. I think the Devil is in one's heart. I am under obligations to that man for the warmest friendship and heartiest sympathy, even for an agony of sympathy expresed both by wool and deed, and tears for me when I was in my greatest distress. But I have forgot that ; as, I fear, he has nigh forgot the awful scenes which were before his eyes when he served the office of a comforter to me. No service was to mean or troublesome for him to perform. I can't think what but the Devi!, " that old spider," could have sucked rev heart so dry of its sense of all grati- tude. If he does come in your way, Southey, fail not to tell him that I retain a most affectionate remembrance of his old friendliness and an earliest wish to resume our intercourse. In this I am serious. I cannot recommend him to your society, because I iall■ifraid whether he he quite worthy of it. But I have no right to dismiss him from my regard. Ile was at onetime. and in the worst of times, my own familiar friend, and great coulart to me then. I hive known him to play at cards with my father, meal times excepted. literally all day long, in long days too, to save me from being teased by the old man, when I was wet able to bear it.
God bless him for it, and God bless you, Southey.
But let us turn to lighter matters, taking them indifferently from LAMB or TALFOURD. Here k an account, from the latter, of GODWIN'S behaviour at the damnation of his own tragedy, to which LAMB had supplied an epilogue.
Alas for human hopes ! The play was decisively damned, and the epilogue shared its fate. The tragedy turned out a miracle of dulness for the world to wonder at, although Lamb always insisted it bail one fine line, which he was fond of repeating—sole relic tit the else forgotten play. Kemble and Mrs. Siddons, the brother and sister of the drama, tuileil through four acts and a half without applause or disapprobation ; one speech was nut more vapid than another; and so dead was the level of the dialogue, that although its destiny was seen from afar, it presented no opportunity for hissing. But as the play diew towards a close, when, after a scene of frigid chiding not vivified by any fire of Kemble's own, Antonio drew his sword and plunged it into the heroine's bosom, the "sad civility" of the audience vanished, they started as at a real murder, and hooted the actors from the stage. " Philosophy," which could nut " make a Juliet," sustained the author through the trial. He sat on one of the front beeches of the pit, unmoved amidst the storm. When the first act passed off without a hand, he expressed his satisfaction at the good sense of the house ; eairoper season of applause had not arrived ;" all was exactly as it should be. The second act proceeded to its close in the same uninterrupted calm ; his friends became uneasy, but still his optimism prevailed ; he could afford to wait. And though lie did at last admit the great movement was somewhat tardy, and that the audience seemed rather patient than interested, he did not !me his confidence till the tumult aroe-, and then he submitted with quiet dig- nity to the fare of genius, tau billy to be understood by a world as set in its childhood. Notwithstanding this t ale repulse, Nlt. Godwio retained his taste for the theatre to the last. On every first night of a new piece, whether tragedy, comedy. or farce, whether of friend or the, he sat with gentle interest in a side box, and bore its fate, whatever it might be, with resignation, as he had dune
his own. LAMB ON imsel%da.•
I suppose you know my farce Was damned? The nlise still rings in my ears. Was you ever in the pillory ? being damned is ra:uethio•z like that. • • However, I have been flee of the home ever since, and the house was pretty free with me upon that occasion. Hang 'eni, how they hissed ! it was not a hiss neither, lint a sort of frantic Fed. like a congregation of mad geese, with roaring sometimes like boars, mows aiol coups like apes, sometimes snakes, that hissed we into !liminess. 'Tayas like St. .amthony s tempt (thous. Merl. on us, that God sheath' give his (avail ite children, men, mouths to speak with, to discourse rationally, to promise smoothly. to flatter agreeably, to encourage warmly, to counsel wisely, to sing with, to drink with, and to kiss with, and that thee should turn them into mouths of adders, bears, wolves, hyenas, and whistle like tempests, and emit breath through them like distillations of aspic poison, to asperse and villify the innocent labours of their fellow creatures who are desirous to please tlieni. Heaven be file weal to make the teeth rot out of them all, therefore. 'Mike thrill a reproach, and all that pass by them to loll out their tongue at them. Blind mouths ! as Milton soa.eri here call. them.
3111S. CL.11RKE AND TIIE DANCING-11.1%TER.
If you see newspapers, you w ill read about Mrs. Clarke. The sensation in Loudon about this nonsensical Ink.illess is marvellous. 1 remember nothing in my life like it. Thousands of hrIhuals, carieittut es, lives of Mts. Clarke, in every blind alley. Yet in time midst of this stir, a sublime abstracted dancing- master, who attends a family we know at Kensington, la•ing asked a questioa about the progress of the examinations in the Howse, inquired who 31rs. Clarke was? Ile had heard malting of it. lie hail evaded this omnipresence by utter insignificancy. The Duke should make that man his conalential valet. I proposed locking him up, bailing hint the use of his fiddle awl reel pumps, until he had minutely peril:01:1nd emilillitted to memory the whale holy of the examinations, which employed the !louse of Commons a fortnight, to teach him to be more attentive to what concerns the public.
There is sonic of the essay-like humour of LAMB in b)th these. LA 3111 ON enlist:NTS.
I was agreeably removed from that scruple by the laundress knocking at my door this morning, almost before I season, with a resent of fruit front my young friend, &c. There is something inexpressibly pleasant to me in these presents, he it fruit, or fowl, or amen, or whot sot. hooks are a legitimate cause of acceptance. If present, be not the soul of friendship. undoubtedly they are the most 'spiritual part of the body of that intercourse. There is too much narrowness of thinking in this point. The punctilio of acceptance, methinks,
is too confined acid straitlaced. I could be content to receive money, or clothes, of a joint of meat from a friend. Why should he not send me a dinner as well as a dessert? I would taste him in the beasts of the field, and through all creation. Therefore did the basket of fruit of the juvenile l'allourd not displease toe; not that I have any thoughts of battering or reciprocating these things. To send him any thing in return, would be to reflect suspicion of mer- cenariness upon what I know he meant a free-will offering. Let him overcome me in bounty. In this strife a generous nature loves to be overcome.
AN INDIA HOUSE. INCIDENT.
The E. T. II. has been thrown into a quandary by the strange phenomenon of poor —, whom 1 have known, man and madman, twenty-seven years, he being elder here than myself by nine years and more. lie was always a pleasant, gossiping, half headed, muzzy, dozing, dreaming, walk-about, inof- fensive chap; a little too fond of the creature ; who isn't at times? but — had not brains to work off an over- night's surfeit by ten o'clock next morning ; and, unfortunately, in he wandered the other morning, drunk with last night and with a super-feetation of drink taken in since he set out from bed. He came staggering under his double burden, like trees in Java, bearing at once blossom, fruit, and falling-fruit, as I have heard you or mune other traweiler tell ; with his face literally as blue as the bluest firmament: some wretched calico that lie hail mopped his poor oozy front with, hall rendered up its native dye, and the devil a bet would he consent to wash it, but swore it was charac- teristic, for be was going to the sale of indigo, and set up a laugh which I did not think the lungs of mortal man were competent to. It was like a thousand people laughing, or the Goblin Page. Ile imagined afterwards that the whole office had been laughing at him, so strange did his own salads strike upon his nossensorium. But — has laughed his last laugh. mill awoke the next day to find himself reduced from an abused income of 600/. per annum, to one-sixth of the sum, after thirty-six yeas' tolerably good service. The quality of mercy was not strained in his behalf: the gentle dews drop uut on him flout heaven.
LAMBS FA RTIF.s.
The years 1815-1817, which Lamb passed in his chambers in Inner Temple Lane, were, perhaps, the happiest of his life. His salary was considerably aug- mented, his fame as an author was rapidly extending, he resided near the spot which he best loved, and was sin rounded by a motley group of attached friends, source of thorn Dien of rarest parts, cool all atrungly attached to hint and to his sister. Here the glory of his Wednesday nights shone forth in its greatest lustre. If you did nut meet there the favourites of fortune—authors whale works bore the highest price in Patel mister How, and who glittered in the circles of fashion—you 'night find those who had thought must clegply, felt most keenly, and were destined to produce the most lasting influences on the literature and manners of the age. There Harlitt, sometimes kindling into fierce passion at any mention of the great reverse of his idol Napoleon, at other talcs bashfully enunciated the finest criticism on art, air dwelt with genial iteration on a passage in Chaucer ; or, fresh front the theatre, expatiated on some new itistance of energy in Kean, or reluctantly conceded a greatness to Kenable, or detected some popular fallacy with the fairest and the subtlest reasoning. There Godwin, as be played his quiet rubber, or benignantly joined in the gossip of the day, sat an object of cut ashy and wonder to the stranger, who had been at one time shake(' or charmed with his high speculation, and at another awe-struck by the force and graphic power of his !week There Coleridge sotnetinies, though rarely, took his seat ; and then the genial hubbub of voices was still critics, philosophers, and poets, were contented to listen ; anti toihworn lawyers, clerks from the India House, and members of the Stock Exchange, grew romantic while lee spoke. Lamb used to say that lie was inferior then to what he had been in his youth ; but I can scarcely believe it ; at least there is nothing in his early writing which gives any idea of the richness of his mind so laivshly poured out at this time in his happiest moods. Although lie looked much older than he was, his hair being silvered all over and his person tending to corpulency, there was about him no trace of bodily sickness or mental decay, but rather an air of volup- tuous repose. His benignity of manner placed his auditors entirely at their ease, and inclined them to listen delighted to the sweet, loIT tone in which he began to discourse on some high theme. Whether he bad won for his greedy listener only some raw hid, or chained a circle of beauty, rank, and wit, who hung breathless on his words, he talked with equal eloquence ; for his subject, not his audience, inspired him. At first his tones were conversational: be seemed to dally with the shallows of the subject and with fantastic images which bordered it; but gradually the thought grew deeper, and the voice deepened with the thought ; the stream gathering strength, seemed to bear along with it all things which opposed its progress, and blended them with its current ; and stretching away among regions tinted with etherial colours, was lost at airy distance in the horizon of fancy. His hearers were unable to grasp his theories, which were indeed too vast to be exhibited in the longest conversation ; but they perceived noble images, generous suggestions, affecting pictures of virtue, which enriched their minds and nurtured their best affections. Coleridge was some- times induced to recite portions of " Chrietabel," then enshrined in manuscript from eyes profane, and gave a bewitching effect to its wizard lines.