Our next door. Ugliness being trump, I wonder more people don’t win. Mandeville, why don’t you get up a “centenary” of Socrates, and put up his statue in the Central Park? It would make that one of Lincoln in Union Square look beautiful.
The Parson. Oh, you’ll see that some day, when they have a museum there illustrating the “Science of Religion.”
The fire-tender. Doubtless, to go back to what we were talking of, the world has a fondness for some authors, and thinks of them with an affectionate and half-pitying familiarity; and it may be that this grows out of something in their lives quite as much as anything in their writings. There seems to be more disposition of personal liking to Thackeray than to Dickens, now both are dead,—a result that would hardly have been predicted when the world was crying over Little Nell, or agreeing to hate Becky Sharp.
The young lady. What was that you were telling about Charles Lamb, the other day, Mandeville? Is not the popular liking for him somewhat independent of his writings?
Mandeville. He is a striking example of an author who is loved. Very likely the remembrance of his tribulations has still something to do with the tenderness felt for him. He supported no dignity and permitted a familiarity which indicated no self-appreciation of his real rank in the world of letters. I have heard that his acquaintances familiarly called him “Charley.”
Our next door. It’s a relief to know that! Do you happen to know what Socrates was called?
Mandeville. I have seen people who knew Lamb very well. One of them told me, as illustrating his want of dignity, that as he was going home late one night through the nearly empty streets, he was met by a roystering party who were making a night of it from tavern to tavern. They fell upon Lamb, attracted by his odd figure and hesitating manner, and, hoisting him on their shoulders, carried him off, singing as they went. Lamb enjoyed the lark, and did not tell them who he was. When they were tired of lugging him, they lifted him, with much effort and difficulty, to the top of a high wall, and left him there amid the broken bottles, utterly unable to get down. Lamb remained there philosophically in the enjoyment of his novel adventure, until a passing watchman rescued him from his ridiculous situation.
The fire-tender. How did the story get out?
Mandeville. Oh, Lamb told all about it next morning; and when asked afterwards why he did so, he replied that there was no fun in it unless he told it.
The King sat in the winter-house in the ninth month, and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him . . . . When Jehudi had read three or four leaves he cut it with the penknife.