["The Phoenix.” Mr. Westwood was agent for the Phoenix Insurance Company, and the badge of that office was probably on the house.]
CHARLES LAMB TO WALTER WILSON
Enfield, 15th November, 1829.
My dear Wilson,—I have not opened a packet of unknown contents for many years, that gave me so much pleasure as when I disclosed your three volumes. I have given them a careful perusal, and they have taken their degree of classical books upon my shelves. De Foe was always my darling; but what darkness was I in as to far the larger part of his writings! I have now an epitome of them all. I think the way in which you have done the “Life” the most judicious you could have pitched upon. You have made him tell his own story, and your comments are in keeping with the tale. Why, I never heard of such a work as “the Review.” Strange that in my stall-hunting days I never so much as lit upon an odd volume of it. This circumstance looks as if they were never of any great circulation. But I may have met with ’em, and not knowing the prize, overpast ’em. I was almost a stranger to the whole history of Dissenters in those reigns, and picked my way through that strange book the “Consolidator” at random. How affecting are some of his personal appeals! what a machine of projects he set on foot! and following writers have picked his pocket of the patents. I do not understand where-abouts in Roxana he himself left off. I always thought the complete-tourist-sort of description of the town she passes through on her last embarkation miserably unseasonable and out of place. I knew not they were spurious. Enlighten me as to where the apocryphal matter commences. I, by accident, can correct one A.D. “Family Instructor,” vol. ii. 1718; you say his first volume had then reached the fourth edition; now I have a fifth, printed for Eman. Matthews, 1717. So have I plucked one rotten date, or rather picked it up where it had inadvertently fallen, from your flourishing date tree, the Palm of Engaddi. I may take it for my pains. I think yours a book which every public library must have, and every English scholar should have. I am sure it has enriched my meagre stock of the author’s works. I seem to be twice as opulent. Mary is by my side just finishing the second volume. It must have interest to divert her away so long from her modern novels. Colburn will be quite jealous. I was a little disappointed at my “Ode to the Treadmill” not finding a place; but it came out of time. The two papers of mine will puzzle the reader, being so akin. Odd that, never keeping a scrap of my own letters, with some fifteen years’ interval I should nearly have said the same things. But I shall always feel happy in having my name go down any how with De Foe’s, and that of his historiographer. I promise myself, if not immortality, yet diuternity of being read in consequence. We