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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 257 pages of information about The Best Letters of Charles Lamb.
anything.  If I could slip out of it I should be happy; but our chief-reputed assistants have forsaken us.  The Opium-Eater crossed us once with a dazzling path, and hath as suddenly left us darkling; and, in short, I shall go on from dull to worse, because I cannot resist the booksellers’ importunity,—­the old plea, you know, of authors; but I believe on my part sincere.  Hartley I do not so often see, but I never see him in unwelcome hour.  I thoroughly love and honor him.  I send you a frozen epistle; but it is winter and dead time of the year with me.  May Heaven keep something like spring and summer up with you, strengthen your eyes, and make mine a little lighter to encounter with them, as I hope they shall yet and again, before all are closed!

Yours, with every kind remembrance,

C. L.

[1] Martin Burney was the grimy-fisted whist-player to whom Lamb once observed, “Martin, if dirt was trumps, what hands you would hold!”

[2] The enchanter in “The Faerie Queene.”

LXIX.

TO JOHN CLARE. [1]

August 31, 1822.

Dear Clare,—­I thank you heartily for your present.  I am an inveterate old Londoner, but while I am among your choice collections I seem to be native to them and free of the country.  The quality of your observation has astonished me.  What have most pleased me have been “Recollections after a Ramble,” and those “Grongar Hill” kind of pieces in eight-syllable lines, my favourite measure, such as “Cooper Hill” and “Solitude.”  In some of your story-telling Ballads the provincial phrases sometimes startle me.  I think you are too profuse with them.  In poetry slang of every kind is to be avoided.  There is a rustic Cockneyism, as little pleasing as ours of London.  Transplant Arcadia to Helpstone.  The true rustic style I think is to be found in Shenstone.  Would his “School-mistress,” the prettiest of poems, have been better if he had used quite the Goody’s own language?  Now and then a home rusticism is fresh and startling; but when nothing is gained in expression, it is out of tenor.  It may make folks smile and stare; but the ungenial coalition of barbarous with refined phrases will prevent you in the end from being so generally tasted as you desire to be.  Excuse my freedom, and take the same liberty with my puns.

I send you two little volumes of my spare hours.  They are of all sorts; there is a Methodist hymn for Sundays, and a farce for Saturday night.  Pray give them a place on your shelf.  Pray accept a little volume, of which I have a duplicate, that I may return in equal number to your welcome presents.  I think I am indebted to you for a sonnet in the “London” for August.

Since I saw you I have been in France, and have eaten frogs.  The nicest little rabbity things you ever tasted.  Do look about for them.  Make Mrs. Clare pick off the hind-quarters, boil them plain, with parsley and butter.  The fore-quarters are not so good.  She may let them hop off by themselves.

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