[William Harrison Ainsworth, afterwards to be known as a novelist, was then a solicitor’s pupil at Manchester, aged 18. He had sent Lamb William Warner’s Syrinx; or, A Sevenfold History, 1597. The book was a gift, and is now in the Dyce and Foster library at South Kensington.
Goethe’s Faust. Lamb, as we have seen, had read the account of the play in Madame de Stael’s Germany. He might also have read the translation by Lord Francis Leveson-Gower, 1823. Hayward’s translation was not published till 1834. Goethe admired Lamb’s sonnet on his family name.]
CHARLES LAMB TO W. HARRISON AINSWORTH
[Dated at end: December 29 (1823).]
My dear Sir—You talk of months at a time and I know not what inducements to visit Manchester, Heaven knows how gratifying! but I have had my little month of 1823 already. It is all over, and without incurring a disagreeable favor I cannot so much as get a single holyday till the season returns with the next year. Even our half-hour’s absences from office are set down in a Book! Next year, if I can spare a day or two of it, I will come to Manchester, but I have reasons at home against longer absences.—
I am so ill just at present—(an illness of my own procuring last night; who is Perfect?)—that nothing but your very great kindness could make me write. I will bear in mind the letter to W.W., you shall have it quite in time, before the 12.
My aking and confused Head warns me to leave off.—With a muddled sense of gratefulness, which I shall apprehend more clearly to-morrow, I remain, your friend unseen,
Will your occasions or inclination bring you to London? It will give me great pleasure to show you every thing that Islington can boast, if you know the meaning of that very Cockney sound. We have the New River!
I am asham’d of this scrawl: but I beg
you to accept it for the present.
I am full of qualms.
A fool at 50 is a fool indeed.
[W.W. was Wordsworth.
“A fool at 50 is a fool indeed.” “A fool at forty is a fool indeed” was Young’s line in Satire II. of the series on “Love of Fame.” Lamb was nearing forty-nine.]
CHARLES LAMB TO BERNARD BARTON
[January 9, 1824.]
Dear B.B.—Do you know what it is to succumb under an insurmountable day mare—a whoreson lethargy, Falstaff calls it—an indisposition to do any thing, or to be any thing—a total deadness and distaste—a suspension of vitality —an indifference to locality—a numb soporifical goodfornothingness—an ossification all over—an oyster-like insensibility to the passing events—a mind-stupor,—a brawny defiance to the needles of a thrusting-in conscience—did you ever have a very bad cold, with a total irresolution