Ryle and Lowe dined here on Sunday; the manners of the latter, so gentlemanly! have attracted the special admiration of our Landlady. She guest R. to be nearly of my age. He always had an old head on young shoulders. I fear I shall always have the opposite. Tell me any thing of Foster [Forster] or any body. Write any thing you think will amuse me. I do dearly hope in a week or two to surprise you with our appearance in Dover St....
[Shirley would be Dyce’s edition of James Shirley, the dramatist, in six volumes, 1833.
Harriet was Harriet Isola.
“Ryle and Lowe.” Ryle we have met, but I do not identify Lowe.
I have omitted some lines about family matters at the end of the letter.]
CHARLES LAMB TO EDWARD AND EMMA MOXON
Nov. 29th, 1833.
Mary is of opinion with me, that two of these Sonnets are of a higher grade than any poetry you have done yet. The one to Emma is so pretty! I have only allowed myself to transpose a word in the third line. Sacred shall it be for any intermeddling of mine. But we jointly beg that you will make four lines in the room of the four last. Read “Darby and Joan,” in Mrs. Moxon’s first album. There you’ll see how beautiful in age the looking back to youthful years in an old couple is. But it is a violence to the feelings to anticipate that time in youth. I hope you and Emma will have many a quarrel and many a make-up (and she is beautiful in reconciliation!) before the dark days shall come, in which ye shall say “there is small comfort in them.” You have begun a sort of character of Emma in them very sweetly; carry it on, if you can, through the last lines.
I love the sonnet to my heart, and you shall finish it, and I’ll be damn’d if I furnish a line towards it. So much for that. The next best is
TO THE OCEAN
“Ye gallant winds,
if e’er your LUSTY CHEEKS
Blew longing lover to his mistress’ side,
O, puff your loudest, spread the canvas wide,”
is spirited. The last line I altered, and have re-altered it as it stood. It is closer. These two are your best. But take a good deal of time in finishing the first. How proud should Emma be of her poets!
Perhaps “O Ocean” (though I like it) is too much of the open vowels, which Pope objects to. “Great Ocean!” is obvious. “To save sad thoughts” I think is better (though not good) than for the mind to save herself. But ’tis a noble Sonnet. “St. Cloud” I have no fault to find with.
If I return the Sonnets, think it no disrespect; for I look for a printed copy. You have done better than ever. And now for a reason I did not notice ’em earlier. On Wednesday they came, and on Wednesday I was a-gadding. Mary gave me a holiday, and I set off to Snow Hill. From Snow Hill I deliberately was marching down, with noble Holborn before me, framing in mental cogitation a map of the dear London in prospect, thinking to traverse Wardour-street, &c., when diabolically I was interrupted by