this tawny Ethiop prayeth,
Painter, who is She that stayeth
By, with skin of whitest lustre;
Sunny locks, a shining cluster;
Saintlike seeming to direct him
To the Power that must protect him?
Is she of the heav’nborn Three,
Meek Hope, strong Faith, sweet Charity?
Or some Cherub?
Far transcend my weak invention.
’Tis a simple Christian child,
Missionary young and mild,
From her store of script’ral knowledge
(Bible-taught without a college)
Which by reading she could gather,
Teaches him to say OUR FATHER
To the common Parent, who
Colour not respects nor hue.
White and Black in him have part,
Who looks not to the skin, but heart.—
When I’d done it, the Artist (who had clapt in Miss merely as a fill-space) swore I exprest his full meaning, and the damosel bridled up into a Missionary’s vanity. I like verses to explain Pictures: seldom Pictures to illustrate Poems. Your wood cut is a rueful Lignum Mortis. By the by, is the widow likely to marry again?
I am giving the fruit of my Old Play reading at the Museum to Hone, who sets forth a Portion weekly in the Table Book. Do you see it? How is Mitford?—
I’ll just hint that the Pitcher, the Chord and the Bowl are a little too often repeated (passim) in your Book, and that on page 17 last line but 4 him is put for he, but the poor widow I take it had small leisure for grammatical niceties. Don’t you see there’s He, myself, and him; why not both him? likewise imperviously is cruelly spelt imperiously. These are trifles, and I honestly like your [book,] and you for giving it, tho’ I really am ashamed of so many presents.
I can think of no news, therefore I will end with mine and Mary’s kindest remembrances to you and yours. C.L.
[It has been customary to date this letter December, 1827, but I think that must be too late. Lamb would never have waited till then to tell Barton that he was contributing the Garrick Plays to Hone’s Table Book, especially as the last instalment was printed in that month.
Barton’s new volume was A Widow’s Tale and Other Poems, 1827. The title poem tells how a missionary and his wife were wrecked, and how after three nights and days of horror she was saved. The woodcut on the title-page of Barton’s book represented the widow supporting her dead or dying husband in the midst of the storm.