CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN RICKMAN
[Postmark Oct. 3, 1828.]
I have been thinking of sending some kind of an answer in Latin to your very elaborate letter, but something has arisen every day to hinder me. To begin with our awkward friend M.B. has been with us for a while, and every day and all day we have had such a lecture, you know how he stutters, on legal, mind, nothing but legal notices, that I have been afraid the Latin I want to write might prove rather barbaro-forensic than Ciceronian. He is swallowed up, body and soul, in law; he eats, drinks, plays (at the card table) Law, nothing but Law. He acts Ignoramus in the play so thoroughly, that you w’d swear that in the inmost marrow of his head (is not this the proper anatomical term?) there have housed themselves not devils but pettifoggers, to bemuddle with their noisy chatter his own and his friends’ wits. He brought here, ’twas all his luggage, a book, Fearn on Contingent Remainders. This book he has read so hard, and taken such infinite pains to understand, that the reader’s brain has few or no Remainders to continge. Enough, however, of M.B. and his luggage. To come back to your claims upon me. Your return journey, with notes, I read again and again, nor have I done with them yet. You always make something fresh out of a hackneyed theme. Our milestones, you say, bristle with blunders, but I must shortly explain why I cannot comply with your directions herein.
Suppose I were to consult the local magnates about a matter of this kind.—Ha! says one of our waywardens or parish overseers,—What business is this of yours? Do you want to drop the Lodger and come out as a Householder?—Now you must know that I took this house of mine at Enfield, by an obvious domiciliary fiction, in my Sister’s name, to avoid the bother and trouble of parish and vestry meetings, and to escape finding myself one day an overseer or big-wig of some sort. What then w’d be my reply to the above question?
Leisure I have secured: but of dignity, not a tittle. Besides, to tell you the truth, the aforesaid irregularities are, to my thinking, most entertaining, and in fact very touching indeed. Here am I, quit of worldly affairs of every kind; for if superannuation does not mean that, what does it mean? The world then, being, as the saying is, beyond my ken, and being myself entirely removed from any accurate distinctions of space or time, these mistakes in road-measure do not seriously offend me. For in the infinite space of the heavens above (which in this contracted sphere of mine I desire to imitate so far as may be) what need is there of milestones? Local distance has to do with mortal affairs. In my walks abroad, limited though they must be, I am quite at my own disposal, and on that account I have a good word for our Enfield clocks too. Their hands generally