Farewell, and accept this apology for a letter from one who owes you so much in that kind.
Yours ever truly, C.L.
[Lamb’s portrait of his father is reproduced in Vol. II. of my large edition. The first love verses are no more.
William Blake was at this time sixty-six years of age. He was living in poverty and neglect at 3 Fountain Court, Strand. Blake made 537 illustrations to Young’s Night Thoughts, of which only forty-seven were published. Lamb is, however, thinking of his edition of Blair’s Grave. The exhibition of his works was held in 1809, and it was for this that Blake wrote the descriptive catalogue. Lamb had sent Blake’s “Sweep Song,” which, like “Tiger, Tiger,” is in the Songs of Innocence, to James Montgomery for his Chimney-Sweepers’ Friend and Climbing Boys’ Album, 1824, a little book designed to ameliorate the lot of those children, in whose interest a society existed. Barton also contributed something. It was Blake’s poem which had excited Barton’s curiosity. Probably he thought that Lamb wrote it. Lamb’s mistake concerning Blake’s name is curious in so far as that it was Blake’s brother Robert, who died in 1787, who in a vision revealed to the poet the method by which the Songs of Innocence were to be reproduced.
“The Dream awkwardly paraphras’d from B.” The book ended with three “Climbing-Boys’ Soliloquies” by Montgomery. The second was a dream in which the dream in Blake’s song was extended and prosified.
“An Epilogue for a Private Theatrical.” Probably the epilogue for the amateur performance of “Richard II.,” given by the family of Henry Field, Barren Field’s father (see Vol. IV. of the present edition).
“Another great Poet.” Byron died on April 19, 1824.
“Alderman Curtis.” See note above.]
CHARLES LAMB TO BERNARD BARTON
July 7th, 1824.
DEAR B.B.—I have been suffering under a severe inflammation of the eyes, notwithstanding which I resolutely went through your very pretty volume at once, which I dare pronounce in no ways inferior to former lucubrations. “Abroad” and “lord” are vile rhymes notwithstanding, and if you count you will wonder how many times you have repeated the word unearthly—thrice in one poem. It is become a slang word with the bards; avoid it in future lustily. “Time” is fine; but there are better a good deal, I think. The volume does not lie by me; and, after a long day’s smarting fatigue, which has almost put out my eyes (not blind however to your merits), I dare not trust myself with long writing. The verses to Bloomfield are the sweetest in the collection. Religion is sometimes lugged in, as if it did not come naturally. I will go over carefully when I get my seeing, and exemplify. You have also too much of singing metre, such as requires no deep ear to make; lilting measure, in which you have done Woolman injustice. Strike at less superficial melodies. The piece on Nayler is more to my fancy.