Southey has attacked Elia on the score of infidelity, in the Quarterly, Article, “Progress of Infidels [Infidelity].” I had not, nor have, seen the Monthly. He might have spared an old friend such a construction of a few careless flights, that meant no harm to religion. If all his UNGUARDED expressions on the subject were to be collected—
But I love and respect Southey—and will not retort. I HATE HIS REVIEW, and his being a Reviewer.
The hint he has dropped will knock the sale of the book on the head, which was almost at a stop before.
Let it stop. There is corn in Egypt, while there is cash at Leadenhall. You and I are something besides being Writers. Thank God.
Yours truly C.L.
[What the MS. was I do not know. Lamb recurs more fully to the description of the little church—probably Hollingdon Rural, about three miles north-west from the town—in later letters.
The thoughts in the second paragraph of this letter were amplified in the Elia essay “The Old Margate Hoy,” in the London Magazine for July, 1823.
“Southey has attacked Elia.” In an article in the Quarterly for January, 1823, in a review of a work by Gregoire on Deism in France, under the title “The Progress of Infidelity,” Southey had a reference to Elia in the following terms:—
“Unbelievers have not always been honest enough thus to express their real feelings; but this we know concerning them, that when they have renounced their birthright of hope, they have not been able to divest themselves of fear. From the nature of the human mind this might be presumed, and in fact it is so. They may deaden the heart and stupify the conscience, but they cannot destroy the imaginative faculty. There is a remarkable proof of this in Elia’s Essays, a book which wants only a sounder religious feeling, to be as delightful as it is original.”
And then Southey went on to draw attention to the case of Thornton Hunt, the little child of Leigh Hunt, the (to Southey) notorious free-thinker, who, as Lamb had stated in the essay “Witches and Other Night Fears,” would wake at night in terror of images of fear.
“I will not retort.” Lamb, as we shall see, changed his mind.
“Almost at a stop before.” Elia was never popular until long after Lamb’s death. It did not reach a second edition until 1836. There are now several new editions every year.]
CHARLES LAMB TO THOMAS ALLSOP
D’r A.—I expect Proctor and Wainwright (Janus W.) this evening; will you come? I suppose it is but a comp’t to ask Mrs. Alsop; but it is none to say that we should be most glad to see her. Yours ever. How vexed I am at your Dalston expedit’n. C.L. Tuesday.