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Page 58. Harmony in Unlikeness.
The two lovely damsels were Emma Isola and her friend Maria.
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Page 59. Written at Cambridge.
This sonnet was first printed in The Examiner, August 29 and 30, 1819, and was dated August 15. Lamb, we now know, from a letter recently discovered, was in Cambridge in August, 1819, just after being refused by Miss Kelly. Hazlitt in his essay “On the Conversation of Authors” in the London Magazine for September, 1820, referred to Lamb’s visit to him some years before, and his want of ease among rural surroundings, adding: “But when we cross the country to Oxford, then he spoke a little. He and the old collegers were hail-fellow-well-met: and in the quadrangle he ‘walked gowned.’”
Page 59. To a Celebrated Female Performer in the “Blind Boy."
First printed in the Morning Chronicle, 1819. “The Blind Boy,” “attributed,” says Genest, “to Hewetson,” was produced in 1807. It was revived from time to time. Miss Kelly used to play Edmond, the title role.
Page 59. Work.
First printed in The Examiner, June 20 and
21, 1819, under the title
Many years earlier we see the germ of this sonnet in Lamb’s mind, as indeed we see the germ of so many ideas that were not fully expressed till later, for he always kept his thoughts at call. Writing to Wordsworth in September, 1805, he says:—“Hang work! I wish that all the year were holyday. I am sure that Indolence indefeasible Indolence is the true state of man, and business the invention of the Old Teazer who persuaded Adam’s Master to give him an apron and set him a-houghing. Pen and Ink and Clerks, and desks, were the refinements of this old torturer a thousand years after....”
Lamb probably was as fond of this sonnet as of anything he wrote in what might be called his second poetical period. He copied it into his first letter to Bernard Barton, in September, 1822, and he drew attention to it in his Elia essay “The Superannuated Man.”
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Page 60. Leisure.
First printed in the London Magazine for April, 1821, probably, I think, as a protest against the objection taken by some persons to the opinions expressed by Lamb in his essay on “New Year’s Eve” in that magazine for January (see Vol. II., and notes). Lamb had therein said, speaking of death:—“I am not content to pass away ’like a weaver’s shuttle.’ Those metaphors solace me not, nor sweeten the unpalatable draught of mortality. I care not to be carried with the tide, that smoothly bears human life to eternity; and reluct at the inevitable course of destiny. I am in love with this green earth; the face of town and country; the unspeakable rural solitudes, and the sweet security of streets. I would set up my tabernacle here. I am content to stand still at the age to which I am arrived; I, and my friends. To be no younger, no richer, no handsomer. I do not want to be weaned by age; or drop, like mellow fruit, as they say, into the grave.”