T. Moore asked me your address in a manner which made me believe he meant to call upon you.
Rogers spake very kindly of you, as every body does, and none with so much reason as your
[This is the first important letter to Bryan Waller Procter, better known as Barry Cornwall, who was afterwards to write, in his old age, so pleasant a memoir of Lamb. He was then thirty-five, was practising law, and had already published Marcian Colonna and A Sicilian Story.
The Epistle to Mr. Jervas (with Mr. Dryden’s translation of Fresnoy’s Art of Painting) did not end upon this line, but some eighteen lines later. I give the portrait in my large edition.
“Lady Mary.” By Lady Mary Lamb means, as Pope did in the first edition, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. But after his quarrel with that lady Pope altered it to Worsley, signifying Lady Frances Worsley, daughter of the Duke of Marlborough and wife of Sir Robert Worsley.]
CHARLES LAMB TO SARAH HUTCHINSON
[P.M. April 25, 1823.]
Dear Miss H——, Mary has such an invincible reluctance to any epistolary exertion, that I am sparing her a mortification by taking the pen from her. The plain truth is, she writes such a pimping, mean, detestable hand, that she is ashamed of the formation of her letters. There is an essential poverty and abjectness in the frame of them. They look like begging letters. And then she is sure to omit a most substantial word in the second draught (for she never ventures an epistle, without a foul copy first) which is obliged to be interlined, which spoils the neatest epistle, you know [the word “epistle” is underlined). Her figures, 1, 2, 3, 4, &c., where she has occasion to express numerals, as in the date (25 Apr 1823), are not figures, but Figurantes. And the combined posse go staggering up and down shameless as drunkards in the day time. It is no better when she rules her paper, her lines are “not less erring” than her words—a sort of unnatural parallel lines, that are perpetually threatening to meet, which you know is quite contrary to Euclid [here Lamb has ruled lines grossly unparallel]. Her very blots are not bold like this [here a bold blot], but poor smears [here a poor smear] half left in and half scratched out with another smear left in their place. I like a clean letter. A bold free hand, and a fearless flourish. Then she has always to go thro’ them (a second operation) to dot her i s, and cross her t s. I don’t think she can make a cork screw, if she tried—which has such a fine effect at the end or middle of an epistle—and fills up—
[Here Lamb has made a corkscrew two inches long.]
There is a corkscrew, one of the best I ever drew. By the way what incomparable whiskey that was of Monkhouse’s. But if I am to write a letter, let me begin, and not stand flourishing like a fencer at a fair.