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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 567 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb Volume 2.

FRONTISPIECE

ELIA

From a Drawing by Daniel Maclise, now preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

ELIA

(From the 1st Edition, 1823)

THE SOUTH-SEA HOUSE

Reader, in thy passage from the Bank—­where thou hast been receiving thy half-yearly dividends (supposing thou art a lean annuitant like myself)—­to the Flower Pot, to secure a place for Dalston, or Shacklewell, or some other thy suburban retreat northerly,—­didst thou never observe a melancholy looking, handsome, brick and stone edifice, to the left—­where Threadneedle-street abuts upon Bishopsgate?  I dare say thou hast often admired its magnificent portals ever gaping wide, and disclosing to view a grave court, with cloisters and pillars, with few or no traces of goers-in or comers-out—­a desolation something like Balclutha’s.[1]

This was once a house of trade,—­a centre of busy interests.  The throng of merchants was here—­the quick pulse of gain—­and here some forms of business are still kept up, though the soul be long since fled.  Here are still to be seen stately porticos; imposing staircases; offices roomy as the state apartments in palaces—­deserted, or thinly peopled with a few straggling clerks; the still more sacred interiors of court and committee rooms, with venerable faces of beadles, door-keepers—­directors seated in form on solemn days (to proclaim a dead dividend,) at long worm-eaten tables, that have been mahogany, with tarnished gilt-leather coverings, supporting massy silver inkstands long since dry;—­the oaken wainscots hung with pictures of deceased governors and sub-governors, of queen Anne, and the two first monarchs of the Brunswick dynasty;—­huge charts, which subsequent discoveries have antiquated;—­dusty maps of Mexico, dim as dreams,—­and soundings of the Bay of Panama!—­The long passages hung with buckets, appended, in idle row, to walls, whose substance might defy any, short of the last, conflagration;—­with vast ranges of cellarage under all, where dollars and pieces of eight once lay, an “unsunned heap,” for Mammon to have solaced his solitary heart withal,—­long since dissipated, or scattered into air at the blast of the breaking of that famous BUBBLE.—­

Such is the SOUTH-SEA HOUSE.  At least, such it was forty years ago, when I knew it,—­a magnificent relic!  What alterations may have been made in it since, I have had no opportunities of verifying.  Time, I take for granted, has not freshened it.  No wind has resuscitated the face of the sleeping waters.  A thicker crust by this time stagnates upon it.  The moths, that were then battening upon its obsolete ledgers and day-books, have rested from their depredations, but other light generations have succeeded, making fine fretwork among their single and double entries.  Layers of dust have accumulated

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