« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
MARY ANNE LAMB,
THE MEMORIALS OF MANY YEARS WHICH SHE SPENT WITH THE WRITER
IN UNDIVIDED AFFECTION;
OF THE SORROWS AND THE JOYS SHE SHARED,
THE GENIUS WHICH SHE CHERISHED,
THE EXCELLENCES WHICH SHE BEST KNEW;
RESPECTFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED,
BY THE EDITOR.
THE share of the editor in these volumes can scarcely be regarded too slightly. The successive publications of Lamb's works form almost the only events of his life which can be recorded; and upon these criticism has been nearly exhausted. Little, therefore, was necessary to accompany the Letters, except such thread of narrative as might connect them together; and such explanations as might render their allusions generally understood. The reader's gratitude for the pleasure which he will derive from these memorials of one of the most delightful of English writers is wholly due to his correspondents, who have kindly entrusted the precious relics to the care of the Editor, and have permitted them to be given to the world; and to Mr. Moxon, by whose interest and zeal they have been chiefly collected. He may be allowed to express his personal sense of the honour which he has received in such a trust from men, some of whom are among the greatest of England's living authors, -to Wordsworth, Southey, Manning, Barton, Procter, Gilman, Patmore, Walter Wilson, Field, Robinson, Dyer, Cary, Ainsworth, to Mr. Green, the executor of Coleridge, and to the surviving relatives of Hazlitt. He is also most grateful to Lamb's esteemed schoolfellow, Mr. Le Grice, for supplying an interesting part of his history. Of the few additional facts of Lamb's history, the chief have been supplied by Mr. Moxon, in whose welfare he took a most affectionate interest to the close of his life; and who has devoted some beautiful sonnets to his memory.
The recentness of the period of some of the letters has rendered it necessary to omit many portions of them, in which the humour and beauty are interwoven with personal references, which, although wholly free from any thing which, rightly understood, could give pain to any human being, touch on subjects too sacred for public exposure. Some of the personal allusions which have been retained, may seem, perhaps, too free to a stranger; but they have been retained only in cases in which the Editor is well assured the parties would be rather gratified than displeased at seeing their names connected in life-like association with one so dear to their memories.
The italics and the capitals are invariably those indicated by the MSS. It is to be regretted that in the printed letters the reader must lose the curious varieties of writing with which the originals abound, and which are scrupulously adapted to the subjects.
Many letters yet remain unpublished, which will further illustrate the character of Mr. Lamb, but which must be reserved for a future time, when the Editor hopes to do more justice to his own sense of the genius and the excellences of his friend, than it has been possible for him to accomplish in these volumes.
Russell Square, 26th June 1837.
T. N. T.
[1775 to 1796.]
Lamb's Parentage, School-days, and Youth, to the commencement of his Correspondence with Coleridge.
CHARLES LAMB was born on 18th February, 1775, in Crown Office Row, in the Inner Temple, where he spent the first seven years of his life. His parents were in a humble station, but they were endued with sentiments and with manners which might well become the gentlest blood; and fortune, which had denied them wealth, enabled them to bestow on their children some of the happiest intellectual advantages which wealth ever confers. His father, Mr. John Lamb, who came up a little boy from Lincoln, fortunately both for himself and his master, entered into the service of Mr. Salt, one of the benchers of the Inner Temple, a widower, who growing old within its precincts, was enabled to appreciate and to reward his devotedness and intelligence; and to whom he became, in the language of his son," his clerk, his good servant, his dresser, his friend, his flapper, his guide, stop-watch, auditor, treasurer." Although contented with his lot,
* Lamb has given characters of his father (under the name of Lovel), and of Mr. Salt, in one of the most exquísite of all the Essays of Elia-" The Old Benchers of the Inner Temple." Of Lovel, he says, "He was a man of an incorrigible and losing honesty. A good fellow withal, and would strike.' In the cause of the oppressed, he never considered inequalities, or calculated the number of his opponents. He once wrested a sword out of the hand of a
and discharging its duties with the most patient assiduity, he was not without literary ambition; and having written some occasional verses to grace the festivities of a benefit society of which he was a member, was encouraged by his brother members to publish, in a thin quarto," Poetical Pieces on several occasions." This volume contains a lively picture of the life of a lady's footman of the last century; the "History of Joseph," told in well-measured heroic couplets; and a pleasant piece, after the manner of "Gay's Fables," entitled the "Sparrow's Wedding," which was the author's favourite, and which, when he fell into the dotage of age, he
man of quality that had drawn upon him, and pummelled him severely with the hilt of it. The swordsman had offered insult to a female-an occasion upon which no odds against him could have prevented the interference of Lovel. He would stand next day bare-headed to the same person, modestly to excuse his interference; for L. never forgot rank where something better was not concerned. L. was the liveliest little fellow breathing; had a face as gay as Garrick's, whom he was said greatly to resemble; (I have a portrait of him which confirms it ;) possessed a fine turn for humorous poetry-next to Swift and Prior; moulded heads in clay or plaster of Paris to admiration, by the dint of natural genius merely; turned cribbageboards and such small cabinet toys to perfection; took a hand at quadrille or bowls with equal facility; made punch better than any man of his degree in England; had the merriest quips and conceits; and was altogether as brimful of rogueries and inventions as you could desire. He was a brother of the angle, moreover; and just such a free, hearty, honest companion as Mr. Izaak Walton would have chosen to go a fishing with."-Essays of Elia (First Series), p. 57.