Why should not you write a poetical Account of your old Worthies, deducing them from Fox to Woolman?—but I remember you did talk of something in that kind, as a counterpart to the Ecclesiastical Sketches. But would not a Poem be more consecutive than a string of Sonnets? You have no Martyrs quite to the Fire, I think, among you. But plenty of Heroic Confessors, Spirit-Martyrs—Lamb-Lions.—Think of it.
It would be better than a series of Sonnets on “Eminent Bankers.”—I like a hit at our way of life, tho’ it does well for me, better than anything short of all one’s time to one’s self, for which alone I rankle with envy at the rich. Books are good, and Pictures are good, and Money to buy them therefore good, but to buy TIME! in other words, LIFE—
The “compliments of the time to you” should end my letter; to a Friend I suppose I must say the “sincerity of the season;” I hope they both mean the same. With excuses for this hastily penn’d note, believe me with great respect—
23 dec. 22.
[Miss Bailly would be Joanna Baillie (1762-1851), author of Plays on the Passions.
The copy of Fox’s Journal, 1694, which was lent to Lamb is now in the possession of the Society of Friends. In it is written:
“This copy of George Fox’s Journal, being the earliest edition of that work, the property of John T. Shewell of Ipswich, is lent for six months to Charles Lamb, at the request of Sam’l Alexander of Needham, Ipswich, 1st mo. 4 1823.” Lamb has added: “Returned by Charles Lamb, within the period, with many thanks to the Lender for the very great satisfaction which he has derived from the perusal of it.”
Southey was meditating a Life of George Fox and corresponded with Barton on the subject. He did not write the book.
Barton had a plan to provide Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastical Sonnets with a Quaker pendant. He did not carry it out.
Here might come an undated and unpublished letter from Lamb to Basil Montagu, which is of little interest except as referring to Miss James, Mary Lamb’s nurse. Lamb says that she was one of four sisters, daughters of a Welsh clergyman, who all became nurses at Mrs. Warburton’s, Hoxton, whither, I imagine, Mary Lamb had often retired. Mrs. Parsons, one of the sisters, became Mary Lamb’s nurse when, some time after Lamb’s death, she moved to 41 Alpha Road, Mrs. Parsons’ house. The late John Hollingshead, great-nephew of these ladies, says in his interesting book, My Lifetime, that their father was rector of Beguildy, in Shropshire.]
CHARLES LAMB TO JOHN HOWARD PAYNE