The Best Letters of Charles Lamb eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 323 pages of information about The Best Letters of Charles Lamb.


[1] See the Elia essay, “Mackery End, in H—–­shire.”



November 25, 1819.

Dear Miss Wordsworth,—­You will think me negligent, but I wanted to see more of Willy [1] before I ventured to express a prediction, Till yesterday I had barely seen him,—­Virgilium tantum vidi; but yesterday he gave us his small company to a bullock’s heart, and I can pronounce him a lad of promise.  He is no pedant nor bookworm; so far I can answer.  Perhaps he has hitherto paid too little attention to other men’s inventions, preferring, like Lord Foppington, the “natural sprouts of his own.”  But he has observation, and seems thoroughly awake.  I am ill at remembering other people’s bon mots, but the following are a few.  Being taken over Waterloo Bridge, he remarked that if we had no mountains, we had a fine river, at least,—­which was a touch of the comparative; but then he added in a strain which augured less for his future abilities as a political economist, that he supposed they must take at least a pound a week toll.  Like a curious naturalist, he inquired if the tide did not come up a little salty.  This being satisfactorily answered, he put another question, as to the flux and reflux; which being rather cunningly evaded than artfully solved by that she-Aristotle Mary, who muttered something about its getting up an hour sooner and sooner every day, he sagely replied, “Then it must come to the same thing at last,”—­which was a speech worthy of an infant Halley!  The lion in the ’Change by no means came up to his ideal standard,—­so impossible is it for Nature, in any of her works, to come up to the standard of a child’s imagination!  The whelps (lionets) he was sorry to find were dead; and on particular inquiry, his old friend the orang-outang had gone the way of all flesh also.  The grand tiger was also sick, and expected in no short time to exchange this transitory world for another or none.  But, again, there was a golden eagle (I do not mean that of Charing) which did much arride and console him.  William’s genius, I take it, leans a little to the figurative; for being at play at tricktrack (a kind of minor billiard-table which we keep for smaller wights, and sometimes refresh our own mature fatigues with taking a hand at), not being able to hit a ball he had iterate aimed at, he cried out, “I cannot hit that beast.”  Now, the balls are usually called men, but he felicitously hit upon a middle term,—­a term of approximation and imaginative reconciliation; a something where the two ends of the brute matter (ivory) and their human and rather violent personification into men might meet, as I take it,—­illustrative of that excellent remark in a certain preface about imagination, explaining “Like a sea-beast that had crawled forth to sun himself!” Not that I accuse William Minor of hereditary plagiary, or conceive the image to have come ex traduce.  Rather he seemeth to keep aloof from any source of imitation, and purposely to remain ignorant of what mighty poets have done in this kind before him; for being asked if his father had ever been on Westminster Bridge, [2] he answered that he did not know!

Project Gutenberg
The Best Letters of Charles Lamb from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook