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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 257 pages of information about The Best Letters of Charles Lamb.

[1] John Morgan

LXIV.

TO WORDSWORTH.

May, 1819.

Dear Wordsworth.—­I received a copy of “Peter Bell” [1] a week ago, and I hope the author will not be offended if I say I do not much relish it.  The humor, if it is meant for humor, is forced; and then the price,—­sixpence would have been dear for it.  Mind, I do not mean your “Peter Bell,” but a “Peter Bell,” which preceded it about a week, and is in every bookseller’s shop-window in London, the type and paper nothing differing from the true one, the preface signed W. W., and the supplementary preface quoting as the author’s words an extract from the supplementary preface to the “Lyrical Ballads.”  Is there no law against these rascals?  I would have this Lambert Simnel whipped at the cart’s tail.  Who started the spurious “P.B.”  I have not heard.  I should guess, one of the sneering brothers, the vile Smiths; but I have heard no name mentioned.  “Peter Bell” (not the mock one) is excellent,—­for its matter, I mean.  I cannot say the style of it quite satisfies me.  It is too lyrical.  The auditors, to whom it is feigned to be told, do not arride me.  I had rather it had been told me, the reader, at once.  “Hart-leap Well” is the tale for me; in matter as good as this, in manner infinitely before it, in my poor judgment.  Why did you not add “The Wagoner”?  Have I thanked you, though, yet for “Peter Bell”?  I would not not have it for a good deal of money.  Coleridge is very foolish to scribble about books.

Neither his tongue nor fingers are very retentive.  But I shall not say anything to him about it.  He would only begin a very long story with a very long face, and I see him far too seldom to tease him with affairs of business or conscience when I do see him.  He never comes near our house, and when we go to see him he is generally writing or thinking; he is writing in his study till the dinner comes, and that is scarce over before the stage summons us away.  The mock “P.B.” had only this effect on me, that after twice reading it over in hopes to find something diverting in it, I reached your two books off the shelf, and set into a steady reading of them, till I had nearly finished both before I went to bed,—­the two of your last edition, of course, I mean, And in the morning I awoke determined to take down the “Excursion.”  I wish the scoundrel imitator could know this.  But why waste a wish on him?  I do not believe that paddling about with a stick in a pond, and fishing up a dead author, whom his intolerable wrongs had driven to that deed of desperation, would turn the heart of one of these obtuse literary BELLS.  There is no Cock for such Peters, damn ’em!  I am glad this aspiration came upon the red-ink line. [2] It is more of a bloody curse.  I have delivered over your other presents to Alsager and G. Dyer, A., I am sure, will value it and be proud of the hand

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