CHARLES LAMB (not Isola).
[Asbury was a doctor at Enfield. I append another letter to him, without date:—]
CHARLES LAMB TO JACOB VALE ASBURY
Dear Sir, It is an observation of a wise man that “moderation is best in all things.” I cannot agree with him “in liquor.” There is a smoothness and oiliness in wine that makes it go down by a natural channel, which I am positive was made for that descending. Else, why does not wine choke us? could Nature have made that sloping lane, not to facilitate the down-going? She does nothing in vain. You know that better than I. You know how often she has helped you at a dead lift, and how much better entitled she is to a fee than yourself sometimes, when you carry off the credit. Still there is something due to manners and customs, and I should apologise to you and Mrs. Asbury for being absolutely carried home upon a man’s shoulders thro’ Silver Street, up Parson’s Lane, by the Chapels (which might have taught me better), and then to be deposited like a dead log at Gaffar Westwood’s, who it seems does not “insure” against intoxication. Not that the mode of conveyance is objectionable. On the contrary, it is more easy than a one-horse chaise. Ariel in the “Tempest” says
a Bat’s back do I fly,
After sunset merrily.”
Now I take it that Ariel must sometimes have stayed out late of nights. Indeed, he pretends that “where the bee sucks, there lurks he,” as much as to say that his suction is as innocent as that little innocent (but damnably stinging when he is provok’d) winged creature. But I take it, that Ariel was fond of metheglin, of which the Bees are notorious Brewers. But then you will say: What a shocking sight to see a middle-aged gentleman-and-a-half riding upon a Gentleman’s back up Parson’s Lane at midnight. Exactly the time for that sort of conveyance, when nobody can see him, nobody but Heaven and his own conscience; now Heaven makes fools, and don’t expect much from her own creation; and as for conscience, She and I have long since come to a compromise. I have given up false modesty, and she allows me to abate a little of the true. I like to be liked, but I don’t care about being respected. I don’t respect myself. But, as I was saying, I thought he would have let me down just as we got to Lieutenant Barker’s Coal-shed (or emporium) but by a cunning jerk I eased myself, and righted my posture. I protest, I thought myself in a palanquin, and never felt myself so grandly carried. It was a slave under me. There was I, all but my reason. And what is reason? and what is the loss of it? and how often in a day do we do without it, just as well? Reason is only counting, two and two makes four. And if on my passage home, I thought it made five, what matter? Two and two will just make four, as it always did, before I