Then you must walk all along the Borough side of the Seine facing the Tuileries. There is a mile and a half of print shops and book stalls. If the latter were but English. Then there is a place where the Paris people put all their dead people and bring em flowers and dolls and ginger bread nuts and sonnets and such trifles. And that is all I think worth seeing as sights, except that the streets and shops of Paris are themselves the best sight.
[The Lambs had left England for France in June. While they were there Mary Lamb was taken ill again—in a diligence, according to Moore—and Lamb had to return home alone, leaving a letter, of which this is the only portion that has been preserved, for her guidance on her recovery. It is also the only writing from Lamb to his sister that exists. Mary Lamb, who had taken her nurse with her in case of trouble, was soon well again, and in August had the company of Crabb Robinson in Paris. Mrs. Aders was also there, and Foss, the bookseller in Pall Mall, and his brother. And it was on this visit that the Lambs met John Howard Payne, whom we shall shortly see.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN CLARE
India House, 31 Aug., 1822.
Dear Clare—I thank you heartily for your present. I am an inveterate old Londoner, but while I am among your choice collections, I seem to be native to them, and free of the country. The quantity of your observation has astonished me. What have most pleased me have been Recollections after a Ramble, and those Grongar Hill kind of pieces in eight syllable lines, my favourite measure, such as Cowper Hill and Solitude. In some of your story-telling Ballads the provincial phrases sometimes startle me. I think you are too profuse with them. In poetry slang of every kind is to be avoided. There is a rustick Cockneyism, as little pleasing as ours of London. Transplant Arcadia to Helpstone. The true rustic style, the Arcadian English, I think is to be found in Shenstone. Would his Schoolmistress, the prettiest of poems, have been better, if he had used quite the Goody’s own language? Now and then a home rusticism is fresh and startling, but where nothing is gained in expression, it is out of tenor. It may make folks smile and stare, but the ungenial coalition of barbarous with refined phrases will prevent you in the end from being so generally tasted, as you deserve to be. Excuse my freedom, and take the same liberty with my puns.
I send you two little volumes of my spare hours. They are of all sorts, there is a methodist hymn for Sundays, and a farce for Saturday night. Pray give them a place on your shelf. Pray accept a little volume, of which I have [a] duplicate, that I may return in equal number to your welcome presents.
I think I am indebted to you for a sonnet in the London for August.