The stanza referring to Byron was not reprinted, nor was the word Horkey, which means Harvest Home in Suffolk. Gilbert Meldrum is a character in one of Bloomfield’s Rural Tales.
“Quaker Sonnets.” Barton did not carry out this project. Southey’s Book of the Church was published in 1824.
“I meditate a letter to S.” The “Letter of Elia to Mr. Southey” was published in the London Magazine for October, 1823.]
[No date. Autumn, 1823.]
Your lines are not to be understood reading on one leg. They are sinuous, and to be won with wrestling. I assure you in sincerity that nothing you have done has given me greater satisfaction. Your obscurity, where you are dark, which is seldom, is that of too much meaning, not the painful obscurity which no toil of the reader can dissipate; not the dead vacuum and floundering place in which imagination finds no footing; it is not the dimness of positive darkness, but of distance; and he that reads and not discerns must get a better pair of spectacles. I admire every piece in the collection; I cannot say the first is best; when I do so, the last read rises up in judgment. To your Mother—to your Sister—to Mary dead—they are all weighty with thought and tender with sentiment. Your poetry is like no other:—those cursed Dryads and Pagan trumperies of modern verse have put me out of conceit of the very name of poetry. Your verses are as good and as wholesome as prose; and I have made a sad blunder if I do not leave you with an impression that your present is rarely valued.
[This scrap is in Selections from the Poems and Letters of Bernard Barton, 1849, edited by Edward FitzGerald and Lucy Barton. Lloyd says: “I had a very ample testimony from C. Lamb to the character of my last little volume. I will transcribe to you what he says, as it is but a note, and his manner is always so original, that I am sure the introduction of the merest trifle from his pen will well compensate for the absence of anything of mine.” The volume was Poems, 1823, one of the chief of which was “Stanzas on the Difficulty with which, in Youth, we Bring Home to our Habitual Consciousness, the Idea of Death,” to which Lloyd appended the following sentence from Elia’s essay on “New Year’s Eve,” as motto: “Not childhood alone, but the young man till thirty, never feels practically that he is mortal. He knows it indeed, and, if need were, he could preach a homily on the fragility of life; but he brings it not home to himself, any more than in a hot June, we can appropriate to our imagination the freezing days of December.”]
CHARLES LAMB TO REV. H.F. CARY