Charles Lamb, to those who know thee justly dear,
For rarest genius, and for sterling worth,
Unchanging friendship, warmth of heart sincere,
And wit that never gave an ill thought birth,
Nor ever in its sport infix’d a sting;
To us who have admired and loved thee long,
It is a proud as well as pleasant thing
To hear thy good report, now borne along
Upon the honest breath of public praise:
We know that with the elder sons of song,
In honouring whom thou hast delighted still,
Thy name shall keep its course to after days.
The empty pertness, and the vulgar wrong,
The flippant folly, the malicious will,
Which have assailed thee, now, or heretofore,
Find, soon or late, their proper meed of shame;
The more thy triumph, and our pride the more,
When witling critics to the world proclaim,
In lead, their own dolt incapacity.
Matter it is of mirthful memory
To think, when thou wert early in the field,
How doughtily small Jeffrey ran at thee
A-tilt, and broke a bulrush on thy shield.
And now, a veteran in the lists of fame,
I ween, old Friend! thou art not worse bested
When with a maudlin eye and drunken aim,
Dulness hath thrown a jerdan at thy head.
This was, I think, Southey’s first public utterance concerning Lamb since Lamb’s famous open letter to him of October, 1823 (see Vol. I.).
Lamb wrote to Bernard Barton in the same month: “How noble ... in R.S. to come forward for an old friend who had treated him so unworthily,” For the critics, Lamb said in the same letter, he did not care the “five hundred thousandth part of a half-farthing;” and we can believe him. On page 123 will be found, however, an epigram on the Literary Gazette.
* * * * *
Page 46. In the Album of a Clergyman’s Lady.
This lady was probably Mrs. Williams, of Fornham, in Suffolk, in whose house Lamb’s adopted daughter, Emma Isola, lived as a governess in 1829-1830. The epitaph on page 65 and the acrostic on page 107 were written for the same lady.
Page 46. In the Autograph Book of Mrs. Sergeant W——.
Mrs. Sergeant Wilde, nee Wileman, was the first wife of Thomas Wilde, afterwards Lord Truro (1782-1855), for whose election at Newark in 1831 Lamb is said to have written facetious verses (see my large edition). The Wildes were Lamb’s neighbours at Enfield.
* * * * *
Page 47. In the Album of Lucy Barton.
These lines were sent by Lamb to Lucy Barton’s father, Bernard Barton, the Quaker poet, in the letter of September 30, 1824. Lucy Barton, who afterwards became the wife of Edward FitzGerald, the translator of Omar Khayyam, lived until November 27, 1898. She retained her faculties almost to the end, and in 1892 kindly wrote out for me her memory of a visit paid with her father to the Lambs at Colebrook Row about 1825—a little reminiscence first printed in Bernard Barton and His Friends, 1893.