But the oddest of all was the Sliding Watchman. Think of walking up a street in the depth of a frosty winter, with long ice in the gutters, and sleet over head, and then figure to yourself a sort of bale of a man in white, coming towards you with a lantern in one hand, and an umbrella over his head. It was the oddest mixture of luxury and hardship, of juvenility and old age! But this looked agreeable. Animal spirits carry everything before them; and our invincible friend seemed a watchman for Rabelais. Time was run at and butted by him like a goat. The slide seemed to bear him half through the night at once; he slipped from out of his box and his common-places at one rush of a merry thought, and seemed to say, “Everything’s in imagination;—here goes the whole weight of my office.”
“Your sister”—Mrs. Isabella Jane Towers, author of The Children’s Fireside, 1828, and other books for children, to whom Lamb had sent a sonnet (see Vol. IV.).
“Novello... dedications... I read the Atlas.” In The Atlas for February 17 was reviewed Select Airs from Spohr’s celebrated Opera of Faust, arranged as duetts for the Pianoforte and inscribed to his friend Charles Cowden Clarke by Vincent Novello. Holmes was musical critic for The Atlas.
“One Clarke a schoolmaster.” See note to the letter to Clarke in the summer of 1821.
“Holofernes’ days”—Holofernes, the schoolmaster, in “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” Cowden Clarke had assisted his father.
“Master Stephen.” I do not identify Stephen.
“Victoria”—Mary Victoria Novello, afterwards Mrs. Charles Cowden Clarke.
“At Shacklewell”—the Novellos’ old home. They now lived in Bedford Street, Covent Garden.
“Whose sister married Thurtell.” Thurtell, the murderer of Mr. Weare, I suppose.
In the Boston Bibliophile edition there is also a brief note to Clarke.]
CHARLES LAMB TO HENRY CRABB ROBINSON
[P.M. Feb. 26, 1828.]
My dear Robinson, It will be a very painful thing to us indeed, if you give up coming to see us, as we fear, on account of the nearness of the poor Lady you inquire after. It is true that on the occasion she mentions, which was on her return from last seeing her daughter, she was very heated and feverish, but there seems to be a great amendment in her since, and she has within a day or two passed a quiet evening with us. At the same time I dare not advise any thing one way or another respecting her daughter coming to live with her. I entirely disclaim the least opinion about it. If we named any thing before her, it was erroneously, on the notion that she was the obstacle to the plan which had been suggested of placing her daughter in a Private Family, which seem’d your wish. But I have quite done with the subject. If we can be of any amusement to the poor Lady, without self disturbance, we will. But come and see us after Circuit, as if she were not. You have no more affect’te friends than C. AND M. LAMB.