The Works of Charles Lamb in Four Volumes, Volume 4 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 408 pages of information about The Works of Charles Lamb in Four Volumes, Volume 4.
exaggerations of picture and of poetry,—­what we have read and what we have dreamed of,—­rise up and crowd in upon us such eye-scaring portraits of the man of blood, that our pen is absolutely forestalled; we commence poets when we should play the part of strictest historians, and the very blackness of horror which the deed calls up, serves as a cloud to screen the doer.  The fiction is blameless, it is accordant with those wise prejudices with which nature has guarded our innocence, as with impassable barriers, against the commission of such appalling crimes; but, meantime, the criminal escapes; or if,—­owing to that wise abatement in their expectation of deformity, which, as I hinted at before, the officers of pursuit never fail to make, and no doubt in cases of this sort they make a more than ordinary allowance,—­if, owing to this or any accident, the offender is caught and brought to his trial, who that has been led out of curiosity to witness such a scene has not with astonishment reflected on the difference between a real committer of a murder, and the idea of one which he has been collecting and heightening all his life out of books, dreams, &c.?  The fellow, perhaps, is a sleek, smug-looking man, with light hair and eyebrows,—­the latter by no means jutting out or like a crag,—­and with none of those marks which our fancy had pre-bestowed upon him.

I find I am getting unawares too serious; the best way on such occasions is to leave off, which I shall do by generally recommending to all prosecuting advertisers not to confound crimes with ugliness; or rather, to distinguish between that physiognomical deformity, which I am willing to grant always accompanies crime, and mere physical ugliness,—­which signifies nothing, is the opponent of nothing, and may exist in a good or bad person indifferently.



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Sir,—­I am one of those unhappy persons whose misfortunes, it seems, do not entitle them to the benefit of pure pity.  All that is bestowed upon me of that kindest alleviator of human miseries comes dashed with a double portion of contempt.  My griefs have nothing in them that is felt as sacred by the bystanders.  Yet is my affliction, in truth, of the deepest grain—­the heaviest task that was ever given to mortal patience to sustain.  Time, that wears out all other sorrows, can never modify or soften mine.  Here they must continue to gnaw as long at that fatal mark——­

Why was I ever born?  Why was innocence in my person suffered to be branded with a stain which was appointed only for the blackest guilt?  What had I done, or my parents, that a disgrace of mine should involve a whole posterity in infamy?  I am almost tempted to believe, that, in some preexistent state, crimes to which this sublunary life of mine hath been as much a stranger as the babe that is newly born into it, have drawn down upon me this vengeance, so disproportionate to my actions on this globe.

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The Works of Charles Lamb in Four Volumes, Volume 4 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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