I by no means wish it. But it may explain what I mean, that a neat motto is child of the Title. I think Poetic Virgils as short and sweet as can be desired; only have an eye on the Proof, that the Printer do not substitute Virgils, which would ill accord with your modesty or meaning. Your suggested motto is antique enough in spelling, and modern enough in phrases; a good modern antique: but the matter of it is germane to the purpose only supposing the title proposed a vindication of yourself from the presumption of authorship. The 1st title was liable to this objection, that if you were disposed to enlarge it, and the bookseller insisted on its appearance in Two Tomes, how oddly it would sound—
A Volume of Verse
in Two Volumes
2d edition &c—
You see thro’ my wicked intention of curtailing this Epistolet by the above device of large margin. But in truth the idea of letterising has been oppressive to me of late above your candour to give me credit for. There is Southey, whom I ought to have thank’d a fortnight ago for a present of the Church Book. I have never had courage to buckle myself in earnest even to acknowledge it by six words. And yet I am accounted by some people a good man. How cheap that character is acquired! Pay your debts, don’t borrow money, nor twist your kittens neck off, or disturb a congregation, &c.— your business is done. I know things (thoughts or things, thoughts are things) of myself which would make every friend I have fly me as a plague patient. I once * * *, and set a dog upon a crab’s leg that was shoved out under a moss of sea weeds, a pretty little feeler.—Oh! pah! how sick I am of that; and a lie, a mean one, I once told!— I stink in the midst of respect.
I am much hypt; the fact is, my head is heavy, but there is hope, or if not, I am better than a poor shell fish—not morally when I set the whelp upon it, but have more blood and spirits; things may turn up, and I may creep again into a decent opinion of myself. Vanity will return with sunshine. Till when, pardon my neglects and impute it to the wintry solstice.
[The motto eventually adopted for Barton’s Poetic Vigils was from Vaughan’s Silex Scintillans:—
night! this world’s defeat;
The stop to busie fools; care’s check and curb;
The day of spirits; my soul’s calm retreat
Which none disturb!]
CHARLES LAMB TO BERNARD BARTON
[P.M. 24 March, 1824.]
DEAR B.B.—I hasten to say that if my opinion can strengthen you in your choice, it is decisive for your acceptance of what has been so handsomely offered. I can see nothing injurious to your most honourable sense. Think that you are called to a poetical Ministry—nothing worse—the Minister is worthy of the hire.