Here should come a note to Ayrton saying that Madame Noblet is the least graceful dancer that Lamb ever “did not see.”]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN PAYNE COLLIER
May 16, 1821.
Dear J.P.C.,—Many thanks for the “Decameron:” I have not such a gentleman’s book in my collection: it was a great treat to me, and I got it just as I was wanting something of the sort. I take less pleasure in books than heretofore, but I like books about books. In the second volume, in particular, are treasures—your discoveries about “Twelfth Night,” etc. What a Shakespearian essence that speech of Osrades for food!—Shakespeare is coarse to it—beginning “Forbear and eat no more.” Osrades warms up to that, but does not set out ruffian-swaggerer. The character of the Ass with those three lines, worthy to be set in gilt vellum, and worn in frontlets by the noble beasts for ever—
would, perhaps, he should become thy foe,
And to that end dost beat him many times:
He cares not for himself, much less thy blow.”
Cervantes, Sterne, and Coleridge, have said positively nothing for asses compared with this.
I write in haste; but p. 24, vol. i., the line you cannot appropriate is Gray’s sonnet, specimenifyed by Wordsworth in first preface to L.B., as mixed of bad and good style: p. 143, 2nd vol., you will find last poem but one of the collection on Sidney’s death in Spenser, the line,
“Scipio, Caesar, Petrarch of our time.”
This fixes it to be Raleigh’s: I had guess’d it to be Daniel’s. The last after it, “Silence augmenteth rage,” I will be crucified if it be not Lord Brooke’s. Hang you, and all meddling researchers, hereafter, that by raking into learned dust may find me out wrong in my conjecture!
Dear J.P.C., I shall take the first opportunity of personally thanking you for my entertainment. We are at Dalston for the most part, but I fully hope for an evening soon with you in Russell or Bouverie Street, to talk over old times and books. Remember us kindly to Mrs. J.P.C. Yours very kindly, CHARLES LAMB. I write in misery.
N.B.—The best pen I could borrow at our butcher’s: the ink, I verily believe, came out of the kennel.
[Collier’s Poetical Decameron, in two volumes, was published in 1820: a series of imaginary conversations on curious and little-known books. His “Twelfth Night” discoveries will be found in the Eighth Conversation; Collier deduces the play from Barnaby Rich’s Farewell to Military Profession, 1606. He also describes Thomas Lodge’s “Rosalynde,” the forerunner of “As You Like It,” in which is the character Rosader, whom Lamb calls Osrades. His speech for food runs thus:—