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. L.

[1] Letter LXXIX.

LXXXI.

TO BERNARD BARTON

April, 1824.

Dear B.B.,—­I am sure I cannot fill a letter, though I should disfurnish my skull to fill it; but you expect something, and shall have a notelet.  Is Sunday, not divinely speaking, but humanly and holiday-sically, a blessing?  Without its institution, would our rugged taskmasters have given us a leisure day so often, think you, as once in a month? or, if it had not been instituted, might they not have given us every sixth day?  Solve me this problem.  If we are to go three times a-day to church, why has Sunday slipped into the notion of a holiday?  A HOLY-day, I grant it.  The Puritans, I have read in Southey’s book, knew the distinction.  They made people observe Sunday rigorously, would not let a nurserymaid walk out in the fields with children for recreation on that day.  But then they gave the people a holiday from all sorts of work every second Tuesday.  This was giving to the two Caesars that which was his respective.  Wise, beautiful, thoughtful, generous legislators!  Would Wilberforce give us our Tuesdays?  No; he would turn the six days into sevenths,—­

  “And those three smiling seasons of the year
  Into a Russian winter.” 
  OLD PLAY.

I am sitting opposite a person who is making strange distortions with the gout, which is not unpleasant pleasant,—­to me, at least.  What is the reason we do not sympathize with pain, short of some terrible surgical operation?  Hazlitt, who boldly says all he feels, avows that not only he does not pity sick people, but he hates them.  I obscurely recognize his meaning.  Pain is probably too selfish a consideration, too simply a consideration of self-attention.  We pity poverty, loss of friends, etc.,—­more complex things, in which the sufferer’s feelings are associated with others.  This is a rough thought suggested by the presence of gout; I want head to extricate it and plane it.  What is all this to your letter?  I felt it to be a good one, but my turn, when I write at all, is perversely to travel out of the record, so that my letters are anything but answers.  So you still want a motto?  You must not take my ironical one, because your book, I take it, is too serious for it.  Bickerstaff might have used it for his lucubrations.  What do you think of (for a title) Religio Tremuli? or Tremebundi?  There is Religio Medici and Laici.  But perhaps the volume is not quite Quakerish enough, or exclusively so, for it.  Your own “Vigils” is perhaps the best.  While I have space, let me congratulate with you the return of spring,—­what a summery spring too!  All those qualms about the dog and cray-fish [1] melt before it.  I am going to be happy and vain again.

A hasty farewell,

C. LAMB.

[1] Lamb had confessed, in a previous letter to Barton, to having once wantonly set a dog upon a cray-fish.

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