CHARLES LAMB TO W. HARRISON AINSWORTH India-House, 9th Dec., 1823.
(If I had time I would go over this letter again, and dot all my i’s.)
Dear Sir,—I should have thanked you for your Books and Compliments sooner, but have been waiting for a revise to be sent, which does not come, tho’ I returned the proof on the receit of your letter. I have read Warner with great pleasure. What an elaborate piece of alliteration and antithesis! why it must have been a labour far above the most difficult versification. There is a fine simile of or picture of Semiramis arming to repel a siege. I do not mean to keep the Book, for I suspect you are forming a curious collection, and I do not pretend to any thing of the kind. I have not a Blackletter Book among mine, old Chaucer excepted, and am not Bibliomanist enough to like Blackletter. It is painful to read. Therefore I must insist on returning it at opportunity, not from contumacity and reluctance to be oblig’d, but because it must suit you better than me. The loss of a present from should never exceed the gain of a present to. I hold this maxim infallible in the accepting Line. I read your Magazines with satisfaction. I throughly agree with you as to the German Faust, as far [as] I can do justice to it from an English translation. ’Tis a disagreeable canting tale of Seduction, which has nothing to do with the Spirit of Faustus— Curiosity. Was the dark secret to be explored to end in the seducing of a weak girl, which might have been accomplished by earthly agency? When Marlow gives his Faustus a mistress, he flies him at Helen, flower of Greece, to be sure, and not at Miss Betsy, or Miss Sally Thoughtless.
is the branch that bore the goodly fruit,
And wither’d is Apollo’s laurel tree:
Faustus is dead.”
What a noble natural transition from metaphor to plain speaking! as if the figurative had flagged in description of such a Loss, and was reduced to tell the fact simply.—
I must now thank you for your very kind invitation. It is not out of prospect that I may see Manchester some day, and then I will avail myself of your kindness. But Holydays are scarce things with me, and the Laws of attendance are getting stronger and stronger at Leadenhall. But I shall bear it in mind. Meantime something may (more probably) bring you to town, where I shall be happy to see you. I am always to be found (alas!) at my desk in the forepart of the day.
I wonder why they do not send the revise. I leave late at office, and my abode lies out of the way, or I should have seen about it. If you are impatient, Perhaps a Line to the Printer, directing him to send it me, at Accountant’s Office, may answer. You will see by the scrawl that I only snatch a few minutes from intermitting Business.
Your oblig. Ser., C. LAMB.