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.

C. LAMB.

[1] The essay “Blakesmoor in Hertfordshire,” in the “London Magazine” for September, 1824.

LXXXIV.

TO BERNARD BARTON.

December 1, 1824.

Taylor and Hessey, finding their magazine [1] goes off very heavily at 2_s_. 6_d_., are prudently going to raise their price another shilling; and having already more authors than they want, intend to increase the number of them.  If they set up against the “New Monthly,” they must change their present hands.  It is not tying the dead carcase of a review to a half-dead magazine will do their business.  It is like George Dyer multiplying his volumes to make ’em sell better.  When he finds one will not go off, he publishes two; two stick, he tries three; three hang fire, he is confident that four will have a better chance.

And now, my dear sir, trifling apart, the gloomy catastrophe of yesterday morning prompts a sadder vein.  The fate of the unfortunate Fauntleroy [2] makes me, whether I will or no, to cast reflecting eyes around on such of my friends as, by a parity of situation, are exposed to a similarity of temptation.  My very style seems to myself to become more impressive than usual, with the change of theme.  Who, that standeth, knoweth but he may yet fall?  Your hands as yet, I am most willing to believe, have never deviated, into others’ property; you think it impossible that you could ever commit so heinous an offence.  But so thought Fauntleroy once; so have thought many besides him, who at last have expiated as he hath done.  You are as yet upright; but you are a banker,—­at least, the next thing to it.  I feel the delicacy of the subject; but cash must pass through your hands, sometimes to a great amount.  If in an unguarded hour—­But I will hope better.  Consider the scandal it will bring upon those of your persuasion.  Thousands would go to see a Quaker hanged, that would be indifferent to the fate of a Presbyterian or an Anabaptist.  Think of the effect it would have on the sale of your poems alone, not to mention higher considerations!  I tremble, I am sure, at myself, when I think that so many poor victims of the law, at one time of their life, made as sure of never being hanged as I, in my presumption, am too ready to do myself.  What are we better than they?  Do we come into the world with different necks?  Is there any distinctive mark under our left ears?  Are we unstrangulable, I ask you?  Think of these things.  I am shocked sometimes at the shape of my own fingers, not for their resemblance to the ape tribe (which is something), but for the exquisite adaptation of them to the purposes of picking fingering, etc.  No one that is so framed, I maintain it, but should tremble.

C. L.

[1] Taylor and Hessey succeeded John Scott as editors of the “London Magazine” (of which they were also publishers), and it was to this periodical that most of Lamb’s Elia Essays were contributed.

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