[This communication and that which follows (with trifling omissions) were sent to Notes and Queries by the late Mr. J. Fuller Russell, F.S.A., with this explanation: “I was residing at Enfield in the Cambridge Long Vacation, 1834, and—perhaps to the neglect of more improving pursuits—composed a metrical novel, named ‘Emily de Wilton,’ in three parts. When the first of them was completed, I ventured to introduce myself to Charles Lamb (who was living at Edmonton at the time), and telling him what I had done, and that I had ’scarcely heart to proceed until I had obtained the opinion of a competent judge respecting my verses,’ I asked him to ’while away an idle hour in their perusal,’ adding, ’I fear you will think me very rude and very intrusive, but I am one of the most nervous souls in Christendom.’ Moved, possibly, by this diffident (not to say unusual) confession, Elia speedily gave his consent.”
The poem was never printed. Lamb’s pains in this matter serve to show how kindly disposed he was in these later years to all young men; and how exact a sense of words he had.
In the British Museum is preserved a sheet of similar comments made by Lamb upon a manuscript of P.G. Patmore’s, from which I have quoted a few passages above. In Charles Lamb and the Lloyds will also be found a number of interesting criticisms on a translation of Homer.]
CHARLES LAMB TO J. FULLER RUSSELL
Sir,—I hope you will finish “Emily.” The story I cannot at this stage anticipate. Some looseness of diction I have taken liberty to advert to. It wants a little more severity of style. There are too many prettinesses, but parts of the Poem are better than pretty, and I thank you for the perusal.
Your humble Servt.
Perhaps you will favour me with a call while you stay.
Line 42. “The old abbaye” (if abbey was so spelt) I do not object to, because it does not seem your own language, but humoursomely adapted to the “how folks called it in those times.”
82. “Flares”! Think of the vulgarism “flare up;” let it be “burns.”
112. [In her pale countenance is blent
The majesty of high intent
With meekness by devotion lent,
And when she bends in prayer
Before the Virgin’s awful shrine,—
The rapt enthusiast might deem
The seraph of his brightest dream,
Were meekly kneeling there.]
“Was” decidedly, not “were.” The deeming or supposition, is of a reality, not a contingency. The enthusiast does not deem that a thing may be, but that it is.
118. [When first young Vernon’s
flight she knew,
The lady deemed the tale untrue.]
“Deemed”! This word is just repeated above; say “thought” or “held.” “Deem” is half-cousin to “ween” and “wot.”