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.

Yours ever affectionately, and Pi-Pos’s,

C. L.



November, 1802.

My Dear Manning,—­I must positively write, or I shall miss you at Toulouse.  I sit here like a decayed minute-hand (I lie; that does not sit), and being myself the exponent of no time, take no heed how the clocks about me are going.  You possibly by this time may have explored all Italy, and toppled, unawares, into Etna, while you went too near those rotten-jawed, gap-toothed, old worn-out chaps of hell,—­while I am meditating a quiescent letter to the honest postmaster at Toulouse.  But in case you should not have been felo de se, this is to tell you that your letter was quite to my palate; in particular your just remarks upon Industry, cursed Industry (though indeed you left me to explore the reason), were highly relishing.

I’ve often wished I lived in the Golden Age, before doubt, and propositions, and corollaries, got into the world. Now, as Joseph Cottle, a Bard of Nature, sings, going up Malvern Hills,—­

        “How steep, how painful the ascent! 
  It needs the evidence of close deduction
  To know that ever I shall gain the top.”

You must know that Joe is lame, so that he had some reason for so singing.  These two lines, I assure you, are taken totidem literis from a very popular poem.  Joe is also an epic poet as well as a descriptive, and has written a tragedy, though both his drama and epopoiea are strictly descriptive, and chiefly of the beauties of nature, for Toe thinks man, with all his passions and frailties, not:  a proper subject of the drama.  Joe’s tragedy hath the following surpassing speech in it.  Some king is told that his enemy has engaged twelve archers to come over in a boat from an enemy’s country and way-lay him; he thereupon pathetically exclaims,—­

  “Twelve, dost thou say?  Curse on those dozen villains!”

Cottle read two or three acts out to as, very gravely on both sides, till he came to this heroic touch,—­and then he asked what we laughed at?  I had no more muscles that day.  A poet that chooses to read out his own verses has but a limited power over you.  There is a bound where his authority ceases.



February 19, 1803.

My Dear Manning,—­The general scope of your letter afforded no indications of insanity, but some particular points raised a scruple.  For God’s sake, don’t think any more of “Independent Tartary.” [1] What are you to do among such Ethiopians?  Is there no lineal descendant of Prester John?  Is the chair empty?  Is the sword unswayed?  Depend upon it, they’ll never make you their king as long as any branch of that great stock is remaining.  I tremble for

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