“They have dragged me again.” Lamb had been quite ready to give up Elia with the first essays. “Old China,” one of his most charming papers, was in the March London Magazine.
“Some brains ...” I had to give this up in my large edition. I now find that Swift says it, not Ben Jonson. “There is a brain that will endure but one scumming.” Preface to Battle of the Books.
“Hartley’s sonnets.” Four sonnets by Hartley Coleridge were printed in the London Magazine for February, 1823, addressed to R.S. Jameson.
“Writing to a great man lately.” This was Sir Walter Scott (see page 626). Barron Field would be the friend with the seal.
Here should come a letter from Lamb to Ayrton saying that there will be cards and cold mutton in Russell St. from 8 to 9 and gin and jokes from 9.30 to 12.]
CHARLES LAMB TO BERNARD BARTON
[P.M. 5 April 1823.]
Dear Sir—You must think me ill mannered not to have replied to your first letter sooner, but I have an ugly habit of aversion from letter writing, which makes me an unworthy correspondent. I have had no spring, or cordial call to the occupation of late. I have been not well lately, which must be my lame excuse. Your poem, which I consider very affecting, found me engaged about a humorous Paper for the London, which I had called a “Letter to an Old Gentleman whose Education had been neglected”—and when it was done Taylor and Hessey would not print it, and it discouraged me from doing any thing else, so I took up Scott, where I had scribbled some petulant remarks, and for a make shift father’d them on Ritson. It is obvious I could not make your Poem a part of them, and as I did not know whether I should ever be able to do to my mind what you suggested, I thought it not fair to keep back the verses for the chance. Mr. Mitford’s sonnet I like very well; but as I also have my reasons against interfering at all with the Editorial arrangement of the London, I transmitted it (not in my own hand-writing) to them, who I doubt not will be glad to insert it. What eventual benefit it can be to you (otherwise than that a kind man’s wish is a benefit) I cannot conjecture. Your Society are eminently men of Business, and will probably regard you as an idle fellow, possibly disown you, that is to say, if you had put your own name to a sonnet of that sort, but they cannot excommunicate Mr. Mitford, therefore I thoroughly approve of printing the said verses. When I see any Quaker names to the Concert of Antient Music, or as Directors of the British Institution, or bequeathing medals to Oxford for the best classical themes, etc.—then I shall begin to hope they will emancipate you. But what as a Society can they do for you? you would not accept a Commission in the Army, nor they be likely to procure it; Posts in Church or State have they none in their giving; and then if they disown you—think—you must live “a man forbid.”