Nothing could be further from my mind than any intention or apprehension of any way offending or injuring a man concerning whom I have never spoken, thought, or felt otherwise than with affection, esteem, and admiration.
If you had let me know in any private or friendly manner that you felt wounded by a sentence in which nothing but kindness was intended—or that you found it might injure the sale of your book—I would most readily and gladly have inserted a note in the next Review to qualify and explain what had hurt you.
You have made this impossible,
and I am sorry for it. But I will not
engage in controversy with you to make sport for the Philistines.
The provocation must be strong indeed that can rouse me to do this, even with an enemy. And if you can forgive an unintended offence as heartily as I do the way in which you have resented it, there will be nothing to prevent our meeting as we have heretofore done, and feeling towards each other as we have always been wont to do.
Only signify a correspondent willingness on your part, and send me your address, and my first business next week shall be to reach your door, and shake hands with you and your sister. Remember me to her most kindly and believe me—. Yours, with unabated esteem and regards, Robert Southey.
The matter closed with this exchange of letters, and no hostility remained on either side.
Lamb’s quarrel with the Quarterly began in 1811, when in a review of Weber’s edition of Ford Lamb was described as a “poor maniac.” It was renewed in 1814, when his article on Wordsworth’s Excursion was mutilated. It broke out again in 1822, as Lamb says here, when a reviewer of Reid’s treatise on Hypochondriasis and other Nervous Affections (supposed to be Dr. Gooch, a friend of Dr. Henry Southey’s) referred to Lamb’s “Confessions of a Drunkard” (see Vol. I.) as being, from his own knowledge, true. Thus Lamb’s patience was naturally at breaking point when his own friend Southey attacked Elia a few numbers later.
“I do not think your handwriting at all like Hunt’s.” Lamb had said, in the Letter, of Leigh Hunt: “His hand-writing is so much the same with your own, that I have opened more than one letter of his, hoping, nay, not doubting, but it was from you, and have been disappointed (he will bear with my saying so) at the discovery of my error.”]
CHARLES LAMB TO BERNARD BARTON
[P.M. November 22, 1823.]