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] Lapland mountains.  From Coleridge’s “Destiny of Nations.”

[2] The “Monody” referred to was by Cottle, and appeared in a volume of poems published by him at Bristol in 1795.  Coleridge had forwarded the book to Lamb for his opinion.

[3] The Monody on Chatterton.

[4] Dr. Faustus’s.



June 14, 1796,

I am not quite satisfied now with the Chatterton, [1] and with your leave will try my hand at it again.  A master-joiner, you know, may leave a cabinet to be finished, when his own hands are full.  To your list of illustrative personifications, into which a fine imagination enters, I will take leave to add the following from Beaumont and Fletcher’s “Wife for a Month;” ’tis the conclusion of a description of a sea-fight:  “The game of death was never played so nobly; the meagre thief grew wanton in his mischiefs, and his shrunk, hollow eyes smiled on his ruins.”  There is fancy in these of a lower order from “Bonduca”:  “Then did I see these valiant men of Britain, like boding owls creep into tods of ivy, and hoot their fears to one another nightly.”  Not that it is a personification, only it just caught my eye in a little extract-book I keep, which is full of quotations from B. and F. in particular, in which authors I can’t help thinking there is a greater richness of poetical fancy than in any one, Shakspeare excepted.  Are you acquainted with Massinger?  At a hazard I will trouble you with a passage from a play of his called “A Very Woman.”  The lines are spoken by a lover (disguised) to his faithless mistress.  You will remark the fine effect of the double endings.

You will by your ear distinguish the lines, for I write ’em as prose.  “Not far from where my father lives, a lady, a neighbor by, blest with as great a beauty as Nature durst bestow without undoing, dwelt, and most happily, as I thought then, and blest the house a thousand times she dwelt in.  This beauty, in the blossom of my youth, when my first fire knew no adulterate incense, nor I no way to flatter but my fondness; in all the bravery my friends could show me, in all the faith my innocence could give me, in the best language my true tongue could tell me, and all the broken sighs my sick heart lend me, I sued and served; long did I serve this lady, long was my travail, long my trade to win her; with all the duty of my soul I SERVED HER.”  “Then she must love.”  “She did, but never me:  she could not love me; she would not love, she hated,—­more, she scorned me; and in so a poor and base a way abused me for all my services, for all my bounties, so bold neglects flung on me.”  “What out of love, and worthy love, I gave her (shame to her most unworthy mind!), to fools, to girls, to fiddlers and her boys she flung, all in disdain of

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