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.

To sum up a general opinion of the second volume, I do not feel any one poem in it so forcibly as the “Ancient Marinere” and “The Mad Mother,” and the “Lines at Tintern Abbey” in the first.

C. L.

[1] Of the “Lyrical Ballads” then just published.  For certain results of Lamb’s strictures in this letter, see Letter xxxvii.



January 30, 1801.

I ought before this to have replied to your very kind invitation into Cumberland.  With you and your sister I could gang anywhere; but I am afraid whether I shall ever be able to afford so desperate a journey.  Separate from the pleasure of your company, I don’t much care if I never see a mountain in my life.  I have passed all my days in London, until I have formed as many and intense local attachments as any of you mountaineers can have done with dead nature.  The lighted shops of the Strand and Fleet Street; the innumerable trades, tradesmen, and customers; coaches, wagons, playhouses; all the bustle and wickedness round about Covent Garden; the very women of the town; the watchmen, drunken scenes, rattles; life awake, if you awake, at all hours of the night; the impossibility of being dull in Fleet Street; the crowds, the very dirt and mud, the sun shining upon houses and pavements; the print-shops, the old-book stalls, parsons cheapening books; coffee-houses, steams of soups from kitchens; the pantomimes, London itself a pantomime and a masquerade,—­all these things work themselves into my mind, and feed me without a power of satiating me.  The wonder of these sights impels me into night-walks about her crowded streets, and I often shed tears in the motley Strand from fulness of joy at so much life.  All these emotions must be strange to you; so are your rural emotions to me.  But consider what must I have been doing all my life, not to have lent great portions of my heart with usury to such scenes?

My attachments are all local, purely local,—­I have no passion (or have had none since I was in love, and then it was the spurious engendering of poetry and books) to groves and valleys.  The rooms where I was bom, the furniture which has been before my eyes all my life, a bookcase which has followed me about like a faithful dog (only exceeding him in knowledge), wherever I have moved; old chairs, old tables; streets, squares, where I have sunned myself; my old school,—­these are my mistresses.  Have I not enough without your mountains?  I do not envy you.  I should pity you, did I not know that the mind will make friends with anything.  Your sun and moon, and skies and hills and lakes, affect me no more or scarcely come to be in more venerable characters, than as a gilded room with tapestry and tapers, where I might live with handsome visible objects.  I consider the clouds above me but as a roof beautifully painted, but unable to satisfy the mind, and at last, like the pictures of the apartment of a connoisseur, unable to afford him any longer a pleasure.  So fading upon me, from disuse, have been the beauties of Nature, as they have been confidently called; so ever fresh and green and warm are all the inventions of men and assemblies of men In this great city.  I should certainly have laughed with dear Joanna.

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