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.
what I felt, but refused to go into particulars until I had seen you.  I am never very fond of saying things before third persons, because in the relation (such is human nature) something is sure to be dropped.  If Mrs. Godwin has been the cause of your misconstruction, I am very angry, tell her; yet it is not an anger unto death.  I remember also telling Mrs. G. (which she may have dropt) that I was by turns considerably more delighted than I expected.  But I wished to reserve all this until I saw you.  I even had conceived an expression to meet you with, which was thanking you for some of the most exquisite pieces of criticism I had ever read in my life.  In particular, I should have brought forward that on “Troilus and Cressida” and Shakspeare, which, it is little to say, delighted me and instructed me (if not absolutely instructed me, yet put into full-grown sense many conceptions which had arisen in me before in my most discriminating moods).  All these things I was preparing to say, and bottling them up till I came, thinking to please my friend and host the author, when lo! this deadly blight intervened.

I certainly ought to make great allowances for your misunderstanding me.  You, by long habits of composition and a greater command gained over your own powers, cannot conceive of the desultory and uncertain way in which I (an author by fits) sometimes cannot put the thoughts of a common letter into sane prose.  Any work which I take upon myself as an engagement will act upon me to torment; e.g., when I have undertaken, as three or four times I have, a school-boy copy of verses for Merchant Taylors’ boys, at a guinea a copy, I have fretted over them in perfect inability to do them, and have made my sister wretched with my wretchedness for a week together.  The same, till by habit I have acquired a mechanical command, I have felt in making paragraphs.  As to reviewing, in particular, my head is so whimsical a head that I cannot, after reading another man’s book, let it have been never so pleasing, give any account of it in any methodical way, I cannot follow his train.  Something like this you must have perceived of me in conversation.  Ten thousand times I have confessed to you, talking of my talents, my utter inability to remember in any comprehensive way what I read.  I can vehemently applaud, or perversely stickle, at parts; but I cannot grasp at a whole.  This infirmity (which is nothing to brag of) may be seen in my two little compositions, the tale and my play, in both which no reader, however partial, can find any story.  I wrote such stuff about Chaucer, and got into such digressions, quite irreducible into 1 1/5 column of a paper, that I was perfectly ashamed to show it you.  However, it is become a serious matter that I should convince you I neither slunk from the task through a wilful deserting neglect, or through any (most imaginary on your part) distaste of “Chaucer;” and I will try my hand again,—­I hope with better luck.  My health is bad, and my time taken up; but all I can spare between this and Sunday shall be employed for you, since you desire it:  and if I bring you a crude, wretched paper on Sunday, you must burn it, and forgive me; if it proves anything better than I predict, may it be a peace-offering of sweet incense between us!

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