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.

[Footnote 1:  The concluding period of this most lively narrative I will not call a conceit:  it is one of the grandest conceptions I ever met with.  One feels the ashes of Wickliffe gliding away out of the reach of the Sumners, Commissaries, Officials, Proctors, Doctors, and all the puddering rout of executioners of the impotent rage of the baffled Council:  from Swift into Avon, from Avon into Severn, from Severn into the narrow seas, from the narrow seas into the main ocean, where they become the emblem of his doctrine, “dispersed all the world over.”  Hamlet’s tracing the body of Caesar to the clay that stops a beer-barrel is a no less curious pursuit of “ruined mortality;” but it is in an inverse ratio to this:  it degrades and saddens us, for one part of our nature at least; but this expands the whole of our nature, and gives to the body a sort of ubiquity,—­a diffusion as far as the actions of its partner can have reach or influence.

I have seen this passage smiled at, and set down as a quaint conceit of old Fuller.  But what is not a conceit to those who read it in a temper different from that in which the writer composed it?  The most pathetic parts of poetry to cold tempers seem and are nonsense, as divinity was to the Greeks foolishness.  When Richard II., meditating on his own utter annihilation as to royalty, cries out,

  “O that I were a mockery king of snow,
  To melt before the sun of Bolingbroke,”

if we had been going on pace for pace with the passion before, this sudden conversion of a strong-felt metaphor into something to be actually realized in nature, like that of Jeremiah, “Oh! that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears,” is strictly and strikingly natural; but come unprepared upon it, and it is a conceit:  and so is a “head” turned into “waters.”]

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One of the earliest and noblest enjoyments I had when a boy, was in the contemplation of those capital prints by Hogarth, the Harlot’s and Rake’s Progresses, which, along with some others, hung upon the walls of a great hall in an old-fashioned house in ——­shire, and seemed the solitary tenants (with myself) of that antiquated and life-deserted apartment.

Recollection of the manner in which those prints used to affect me has often made me wonder, when I have heard Hogarth described as a mere comic painter, as one of those whose chief ambition was to raise a laugh.  To deny that there are throughout the prints which I have mentioned circumstances introduced of a laughable tendency, would be to run counter to the common notions of mankind; but to suppose that in their ruling character they appeal chiefly

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