The only objection I feel is founded on a fear that the acceptance may be a temptation to you to let fall the bone (hard as it is) which is in your mouth and must afford tolerable pickings, for the shadow of independence. You cannot propose to become independent on what the low state of interest could afford you from such a principal as you mention; and the most graceful excuse for the acceptance, would be, that it left you free to your voluntary functions. That is the less light part of the scruple. It has no darker shade. I put in darker, because of the ambiguity of the word light, which Donne in his admirable poem on the Metempsychosis, has so ingeniously illustrated in his invocation
1 2 1 2 Make my dark heavy poem, light and light—
where the two senses of light are opposed to different opposites. A trifling criticism.—I can see no reason for any scruple then but what arises from your own interest; which is in your own power of course to solve. If you still have doubts, read over Sanderson’s Cases of Conscience, and Jeremy Taylor’s Ductor Dubitantium, the first a moderate Octavo, the latter a folio of 900 close pages, and when you have thoroughly digested the admirable reasons pro and con which they give for every possible Case, you will be—just as wise as when you began. Every man is his own best Casuist; and after all, as Ephraim Smooth, in the pleasant comedy of Wild Oats, has it, “there is no harm in a Guinea.” A fortiori there is less in 2000.
I therefore most sincerely congratulate with you, excepting so far as excepted above. If you have fair Prospects of adding to the Principal, cut the Bank; but in either case do not refuse an honest Service. Your heart tells you it is not offered to bribe you from any duty, but to a duty which you feel to be your vocation. Farewell heartily C.L.
[In the memoir of Barton by Edward FitzGerald, prefixed to the Poems and Letters, it is stated that in this year Barton received a handsome addition to his income. “A few members of his Society, including some of the wealthier of his own family, raised L1200 among them for his benefit [not 2000 guineas, as Lamb says]. It seems that he felt some delicacy at first in accepting this munificent testimony which his own people offered to his talents.” Birton had written to Lamb on the subject.]
CHARLES LAMB TO BERNARD BARTON
[(Early spring), 1824.]
I am sure I cannot fill a letter, though I should disfurnish my scull to fill it. But you expect something, and shall have a Note-let. Is Sunday, not divinely speaking, but humanly and holydaysically, a blessing? Without its institution, would our rugged taskmasters have given us a leisure day, so often, think you, as once in a month?—or, if it had not been instituted, might they not have