The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 713 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2.
No man could deliver brilliant dialogue—­the dialogue of Congreve or of Wycherley—­because none understood it—­half so well as John Kemble.  His Valentine, in Love for Love, was, to my recollection, faultless.  He flagged sometimes in the intervals of tragic passion.  He would slumber over the level parts of an heroic character.  His Macbeth has been known to nod.  But he always seemed to me to be particularly alive to pointed and witty dialogue.  The relaxing levities of tragedy have not been touched by any since him—­the playful court-bred spirit in which he condescended to the players in Hamlet—­the sportive relief which he threw into the darker shades of Richard—­disappeared with him.  He had his sluggish moods, his torpors—­but they were the halting-stones and resting-places of his tragedy-politic savings, and fetches of the breath—­husbandry of the lungs, where nature pointed him to be an economist—­rather, I think, than errors of the judgment.  They were, at worst, less painful than the eternal tormenting unappeasable vigilance, the “lidless dragon eyes,” of present fashionable tragedy.


Not many nights ago I had come home from seeing this extraordinary performer in Cockletop; and when I retired to my pillow, his whimsical image still stuck by me, in a manner as to threaten sleep.  In vain I tried to divest myself of it, by conjuring up the most opposite associations.  I resolved to be serious.  I raised up the gravest topics of life; private misery, public calamity.  All would not do.

  —­There the antic sate
  Mocking our state—­

his queer visnomy—­his bewildering costume—­all the strange things which he had raked together—­his serpentine rod, swagging about in his pocket—­Cleopatra’s tear, and the rest of his relics—­O’Keefe’s wild farce, and his wilder commentary—­till the passion of laughter, like grief in excess, relieved itself by its own weight, inviting the sleep which in the first instance it had driven away.

But I was not to escape so easily.  No sooner did I fall into slumbers, than the same image, only more perplexing, assailed me in the shape of dreams.  Not one Munden, but five hundred, were dancing before me, like the faces which, whether you will or no, come when you have been taking opium—­all the strange combinations, which this strangest of all strange mortals ever shot his proper countenance into, from the day he came commissioned to dry up the tears of the town for the loss of the now almost forgotten Edwin.  O for the power of the pencil to have fixed them when I awoke!  A season or two since there was exhibited a Hogarth gallery.  I do not see why there should not be a Munden gallery.  In richness and variety the latter would not fall far short of the former.

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The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 2 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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