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Charles Lamb was born in the Temple, in February, l775. ""Tis my poor birth-day," says a letter of his we have lying before us, dated the llth of February. The day will be rich hereafter to the lovers of wit and true genius. The place of his birth had greatly to do with his personal tastes in after life. Every one who has read "John Woodvil" cannot fail to have been struck (as in that loveliest of passages on the " sports of the forest") with its exquisite sense of rural beauty and imagery. But Mr. Lamb's affection nevertheless turned downwards. Born under the shadow of St. Dunstan's steeple, he retained his love for it, and for the neighbouring town-streets, to the last; and to the last he loved the very smoke of London, because, as he said, it had been the medium most familiar to his vision. Anything, in truth, once felt, he never wished to change. When he made any alteration in his lodgings, the thing sadly discomposed him. His household gods, as he would say, planted a terrible fixed foot.
This early habit, however, and this hatred of change, were not the only sources of his attachment to London, and to London streets. A sort of melancholy was often the source of Mr.. Lamb's humour—a melancholy which, indeed, almost insensibly dashed his merriest writings—which used to throw out into still more delicate relief the subtteties o£ his wit and fancy, and which made his very jests to "scald like tears." In Londpn there was some remedy for this, when it threatened to overmaster him. "Often," he said, "when I have felt a weariness
or distaste at home, have I rushed out into her crowded Strand, and fed my humour, till tears have wetted my cheek for unutterable sympathies with the multitudinous moving picture, which she never fails to present at all hours, like the scenes of a shifting pantomime." This is a great and wise example for such as may be similarly afflicted.
Mr. Lamb's earliest associates in London were Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Charles Lloyd, and others, who "called Admiral Burney friend." They used to assemble weekly at Burney's house, at the Queen's Gate, to chat and play whist; or they would meet to discuss supper, and the hopes of the world, at the Old Salutation Tavern. This was the ** *** ** Inn," to which Mr. Lamb makes so affectionate a reference in the dedication of his poems to Coleridge; this was the immortal tavern, and these were the "old suppers in delightful years," where he used to say Coleridge first kindled in him, if not the power, yet the love of poetry, and beauty, and kindliness; — quoting, with true enthusiasm,
"What words have I heard Spoke at the Mermaid!"
Life was then, indeed, fresh to them all, and topics exhaustless; but yet there was one preferred before all others, because it included all. Mr. Lamb once reminded Southey of it in a letter which was written in answer to a reproach the Poet Laureate should have spared his old friend. He speaks of Coleridge,— "the same to me still as in those old evenings, when we used to sit and speculate (do you remember them, Sir?) at our old tavern, upon Pantisocracy and golden days to come on earth."
Mr. Lamb was at this period, indeed from the time he quitted Christ's Hospital to within nine years of his death, a clerk in the India House. 1t is scarcely pleasant to think of his constant labours there, when we think of the legacy of nobler writing of which they may have robbed the world. What have we to do now with all his
drops of labour spilt
On those huge and figured pages,