“Suum Cuique.” The boy for whom this epigram was composed was a son of Hessey, the publisher, afterwards Archdeacon Hessey. He was at the Merchant Taylors’ School, where it was a custom to compose Latin and English epigrams for speech day, the boys being permitted to get help. Archdeacon Hessey wrote as follows in the Taylorian a few years ago:—
The subjects for 1830 were Suum Cuique and Brevis esse laboro. After some three or four exercise nights I confess that I was literally “at my wits’ end.” But a brilliant idea struck me. I had frequently, boy as I was, seen Charles Lamb at my father’s house, and once, in 1825 or 1826, I had been taken to have tea with him and his sister, Mary Lamb, at their little house, Colebrook Cottage, a whitish-brown tenement, standing by itself, close to the New River, at Islington. He was very kind, as he always was to young people, and very quaint. I told him that I had devoured his “Roast Pig”; he congratulated me on possessing a thorough schoolboy’s appetite. And he was pleased when I mentioned my having seen the boys at Christ’s Hospital at their public suppers, which then took place on the Sunday evenings in Lent. “Could this good-natured and humorous old gentleman be prevailed upon to give me an Epigram?” “I don’t know,” said my father, to whom I put the question, “but I will ask him at any rate, and send him the mottoes.” In a day or two there arrived from Enfield, to which Lamb had removed some time in 1827, not one, but two epigrams, one on each subject. That on Suum Cuique was in Latin, and was suggested by the grim satisfaction which had recently been expressed by the public at the capture and execution of some notorious highwayman.
See also Vol. IV. of this edition for a slightly differing version. Lamb had many years before, he says in a letter to Godwin, written similar epigrams.
“With one exception.” Perhaps the Latin verses on Haydon’s picture. See Vol. IV.]
CHARLES LAMB TO EDWARD MOXON
Enfield, Tuesday. [P.M. May 12, 1830.]
Dear M. I dined with your and my Rogers at Mr. Gary’s yesterday. Gary consulted me on the proper bookseller to offer a Lady’s MS novel to. I said I would write to you. But I wish you would call on the Translator of Dante at the British Museum, and talk with him. He is the pleasantest of clergymen. I told him of all Rogers’s handsome behaviour to you, and you are already no stranger. Go. I made Rogers laugh about your Nightingale sonnet, not having heard one. ’Tis a good sonnet notwithstanding. You shall have the books shortly.
[Samuel Rogers had just lent Moxon L500 on which to commence publisher.
Moxon had dedicated his first book to Rogers. This is Moxon’s “Sonnet to the Nightingale,” but I cannot explain why Rogers laughed:—