“When Miss Ouldcroft (who is now Mrs. Beddam [Badams], and Bed-dam’d to her!) was at Enfield, which she was in summer-time, and owed her health to its suns and genial influences, she visited (with young lady-like impertinence) a poor man’s cottage that had a pretty baby (O the yearnling!), gave it fine caps and sweetmeats. On a day, broke into the parlour our two maids uproarious. ’O ma’am, who do you think Miss Ouldcroft (they pronounce it Holcroft) has been working a cap for?’ ’A child,” answered Mary, in true Shandean female simplicity.’ ’Tis the man’s child as was taken up for sheep-stealing.’ Miss Ouldcroft was staggered, and would have cut the connection; but by main force I made her go and take her leave of her protegee. I thought, if she went no more, the Abactor or the Abactor’s wife (vide Ainsworth) would suppose she had heard something; and I have delicacy for a sheep-stealer. The overseers actually overhauled a mutton-pie at the baker’s (his first, last, and only hope of mutton pie), which he never came to eat, and thence inferred his guilt. Per occasionem cujus, I framed the sonnet; observe its elaborate construction. I was four days about it. [Here came the sonnet.] Barry, study that sonnet. It is curiously and perversely elaborate. ’Tis a choking subject, and therefore the reader is directed to the structure of it. See you? and was this a fourteener to be rejected by a trumpery annual? forsooth,’twould shock all mothers; and may all mothers, who would so be shocked, be damned! as if mothers were such sort of logicians as to infer the future hanging of their child from the theoretical hangibility (or capacity of being hanged, if the judge pleases) of every infant born with a neck on. Oh B.C.! my whole heart is faint, and my whole head is sick (how is it?) at this damned canting unmasculine age!”
[Footnote 27: Talfourd. Canon Ainger gives “Damn”]
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Page 61. To the Author of Poems, published under the name of Barry Cornwall.
Printed in the London Magazine, September, 1820.
Barry Cornwall was the pen-name of Bryan Waller Procter, 1787-1874, whose impulse to write poetry came largely from Lamb himself. In his Dramatic Scenes, 1819, was the beginning of a blank-verse treatment or adaptation of Lamb’s “Rosamund Gray.” Procter addressed to Lamb some excellent lines “Over a Flask of Sherris,” which were printed in the London Magazine, 1825, and again in English Songs, 1832. His Martian Colonna; an Italian Tale, was published in 1820 and his Sicilian Story later in the same year. The “Dream” was printed in Dramatic Scenes. Procter in his old age wrote a charming memoir of Lamb.
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Page 62. To R.S. Knowles, Esq.