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.

Mary has left a little space for me to fill up with nonsense, as the geographers used to cram monsters in the voids of the maps, and call it Terra Incognita.  She has told you how she has taken to water like a hungry otter.  I too limp after her in lame imitation, [1] but it goes against me a little at first.  I have been acquaintance with it now for full four days, and it seems a moon.  I am full of cramps and rheumatisms, and cold internally, so that fire won’t warm me; yet I bear all for virtue’s sake.  Must I then leave you, gin, rum, brandy, aqua-vitae, pleasant, jolly fellows?  Damn temperance and he that first invented it!—­some Anti-Noahite.  Coleridge has powdered his head, and looks like Bacchus,—­Bacchus ever sleek and young.  He is going to turn sober, but his clock has not struck yet; meantime he pours down goblet after goblet, the second to see where the first is gone, the third to see no harm happens to the second, a fourth to say there is another coming, and a fifth to say he is not sure he is the last.  C. L.

[1] An experiment in total abstinence; it did not last long.



October 19, 1810.

Dear W.,—­Mary has been very ill, which you have heard, I suppose, from the Montagues.  She is very weak and low-spirited now, I was much pleased with your continuation of the “Essay on Epitaphs,” [1] It is the only sensible thing which has been written on that subject, and it goes to the bottom.  In particular I was pleased with your translation of that turgid epitaph into the plain feeling under it.  It is perfectly a test.  But what is the reason we have no good epitaphs after all?

A very striking instance of your position might be found in the churchyard of Ditton-upon-Thames, if you know such a place.  Ditton-upon-Thames has been blessed by the residence of a poet who, for love or money, I do not well know which, has dignified every gravestone for the last few years with brand new verses, all different and all ingenious, with the author’s name at the bottom of each.  This sweet Swan of Thames has so artfully diversified his strains and his rhymes that the same thought never occurs twice,—­more justly, perhaps, as no thought ever occurs at all, there was a physical impossibility that the same thought should recur, It is long since I saw and read these inscriptions; but I remember the impression was of a smug usher at his desk in the intervals of instruction, levelling his pen.  Of death, as it consists of dust and worms, and mourners and uncertainty, he had never thought; but the word “death” he had often seen separate and conjunct with other words, till he had learned to speak of all its attributes as glibly as Unitarian Belsham will discuss you the attributes of the word “God” in a pulpit, and will talk of infinity with a tongue that dangles from a skull that never reached in thought and thorough imagination two inches, or farther than from his hand to his mouth, or from the vestry to the sounding-board of the pulpit.

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