The Best Letters of Charles Lamb eBook

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

Yours truly,

C. LAMB.

[1] Hertfordshire connections of the Lambs.

LXXV.

TO BERNARD BARTON. [1]

January 9, 1823.

Throw yourself on the world without any rational plan of support beyond what the chance employ of booksellers would afford you!

Throw yourself, rather, my dear sir, from the steep Tarpeian rock slap-dash headlong upon iron spikes.  If you had but five consolatory minutes between the desk and the bed, make much of them, and live a century in them, rather than turn slave to the booksellers.  They are Turks and Tartars when they have poor authors at their beck.  Hitherto you have been at arm’s length from them.  Come not within their grasp.  I have known many authors want for bread, some repining, others envying the blessed security of a counting-house, all agreeing they had rather have been tailors, weavers,—­what not,—­rather than the things they were.  I have known some starved, some to go mad, one dear friend literally dying in a workhouse.  You know not what a rapacious, dishonest set these booksellers are.  Ask even Southey, who (a single case almost) has made a fortune by book-drudgery, what he has found them.  Oh, you know not—­may you never know!—­the miseries of subsisting by authorship.  ’Tis a pretty appendage to a situation like yours or mine, but a slavery, worse than all slavery, to be a bookseller’s dependant, to drudge your brains for pots of ale and breasts of mutton, to change your free thoughts and voluntary numbers for ungracious task-work.  Those fellows hate us.  The reason I take to be that, contrary to other trades, in which the master gets all the credit (a Jeweller or silversmith for instance), and the journeyman, who really does the fine work, is in the background, in our work the world gives all the credit to us, whom they consider as their journeymen, and therefore do they hate us, and cheat us, and oppress us, and would wring the blood of as out, to put another sixpence in their mechanic pouches!  I contend that a bookseller has a relative honesty towards authors, not like his honesty to the rest of the world.  Baldwin, who first engaged me as Elia, has not paid me up yet (nor any of us without repeated mortifying appeals).  Yet how the knave fawned when I was of service to him!  Yet I daresay the fellow is punctual in settling his milk-score, etc.

Keep to your bank, and the bank will keep you.  Trust not to the public; you may hang, starve, drown yourself, for anything that worthy personage cares.  I bless every star that Providence, not seeing good to make me independent, has seen it next good to settle me upon the stable foundation of Leadenhall.  Sit down, good B.B., in the banking-office; what! is there not from six to eleven P.M. six days in the week, and is there not all Sunday?  Fie! what a superfluity of man’s time, if you could think

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The Best Letters of Charles Lamb from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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