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pressions, with the same natural gush of imagination and whim, as they would have done themselves. It is not easy to say in what his wit mainly consists. Certainly it does not depend for its effect upon single brilliant sallies ; upon pointed antithesis ; upon repartee. It is rather a quality, a favor, with which all his thoughts and images are impregnated. It is the concentrated fragrance of a thousand scattered persumes. The senses are delighted with the united sweets, but the several ingredients escape the minutest analysis. If we say that his perception of the ludicrous is his strongest point, we speedily find ourselves in the wrong. Others have this power to a greater extent than he, without a millionth part of his wit. He is constantly punning; but that is not the secret. Some of his puns are more execrable than any that have been perpetrated in Philadelphia. Mr. Talfourd has printed some at the end of his second volume, which sound almost idiotic. His wit is not the perception of ludicrous images ; it is not a play upon words ; it is not the sudden exhibition of unexpected relations ; but it is something wholly inseparable from the texture of his mind, and his habits of association, and assuming all the outward forms, of which language is capable. It is a subtile spirit, pervading all his writings, and reaching the reader's mind by a thousand different avenues. neither seize it nor escape from it. v
The literary opinions of Lamb must generally be severely scrutinized. Neither his moral nor intellectual qualities were such as fitted him to be a catholic judge of other men's productions. Several of his criticisms are exquisitely conceived and expressed. His remarks on Shakspeare's Othello are admirable, but not pbilosophical or profound. But his elaborate defence of the dissolute drama of Charles the Second's time is an astounding absurdity. It shows an incapacity of judging of the demoralizing power, which a depraved literature exercises upon the lowest passions of our nature, which we should wonder at in a child, or else a moral insensibility to the disastrous consequences of that power, almost miraculous. His ridicule of the moral precision of our age, in relation to that most licentious school of writers, falls harmless to the ground. The age is right, only that it does not go far enough in its reprobation of dissolute literature ; and Lamb is wrong, utterly wrong. His opinions upon this point will take a high place on the long list of the absurdities of literary men. The
same singular perversion of taste is shown in many of his selections from the dramatists. Several scenes, taken from those authors, avowedly for their rare beauty of thought and expression, are such as no man would choose to let his sister or daughter read ; such as no man of decency would put into a woman's hand, unless he wished to be excluded from respectable society. Obscenity is just as bad in an old English drama as in a modern French novel. Filth is filth wherever it is found, and no glittering paradox can remove its native deformity. But many of the opinions which he expressed in his letters, on the literary merits of his contemporaries, are singularly clear and correct.
In his correspondence with Coleridge, the bombastic absurdities, and the cloudy vagaries of ihat over-estimated writer, are handled without ceremony ; and some of the admirers of Coleridge will be astonished at the boldness, with which Lamb ridicules bis false brilliancy and oracular mysticism. The same freedom he used with the frequent tediousness and commonplace platitudes of Southey.
Turning from the literary character of Lamb, to his private life, as exhibited in these volumes, we find it marked by as strong peculiarities as his writings. Though indifferent, as we have said, to the benevolent projects of the day, his affections for those about him were strong and tender. The amiable qualities of his heart endeared him to many, not only of different but of opposite characters. He had a strange facility in passing over the disagreeable things in his associates, and fastening only on those traits which pleased him. This was partly owing to his indifference to great principles of action, and his dislike of change and agitation. He was consequently surrounded by people, whose voices must have occasionally produced a strange discord, that all the gentleness of bis nature could scarcely hush. But the most pleasing trait in his private life, is the extraordinary love he bore his sister. She had taken care of his sickly infancy, and in return, he devoted the flower of his life to her comfort and happiness. He abstained from forming any other and closer ties, that he might bestow his undivided care upon the companion of his childhood. How well that high duty was performed, and how justly this beautiful part of his chequered character was appreciated by his friends, is feelingly shown in Sergeant Talfourd's volumes, to which we must now turn our readers' attention.
They are dedicated with great propriety to the surviving sister. The narrative of Lamb's life consists in a brief sketch of his parentage, and of the trifling incidents which diversified his unadventurous career. He was born on the 18th of February, 1775, in the Inner Temple. His parents were in an humble station, but performed with exemplary fidelity the simple duties that belonged to it; his father was in the service of Mr. Salt, one of the benchers of the Inner Temple, to whom he became “ his clerk, his good servant, his dresser, his friend, his flapper, his guide, stop-watch, auditor, treasurer." On the 9th of October, 1782, Charles was placed, at the age of seven, as a scholar at Christ's Hospital, where he remained until he had entered his fifteenth year. In November of 1789, he left the school, and lived with bis parents, who still resided in the Temple ; and soon obtained an appointment in the accountant's office of the East India Company. His small salary was devoted to their comfort ; and his recreations were confined to the two shilling gallery of the theatre, and an occasional supper with some of his former schoolmates, one of whom was Coleridge, for whom he had formed an ardent admiration. While Coleridge was at the University, they met, on his visits to London ; and after he quitted it, and came to town, Lamb became his associate and disciple, though differing essentially from him in the original bias of his mind.
His first letters were written to Coleridge, who had settled, in 1796, at Bristol. They have but little merit, except as a faithful exhibition of Lamb's feelings at an early period of his life. Their most remarkable characteristic is the strong religious feeling that pervades them ; a characteristic which afterwards seems to have disappeared, both from his conversation and correspondence. Both Coleridge and Lamb were then Unitarians. Coleridge afterwards became a virulent hater of opinions he had once cherished, and Lamb seems to have become indifferent to all opinions ; at least there is no trace of his early zeal for religion, or of interest in any thing connected with it, to be found in his letters thus far. The faint outline of the curious intellectual character afterwards so fully delineated in his works, is just discernible ; but as his year's advanced, and his mind matured, his letters becaine more graphic and vigorous. The circle of his acquaintance with literary men enlarged, and his familiarity with some de
partments of English poetry increased. He began his career as an author, with a few poetical efforts, which were published conjointly with Lloyd and Coleridge. The joint stock volume was not very well received by the critics or the public. Its success was perhaps fully equal to its merits.
In 1795, Lamb was introduced to Southey, with whom he lived afterwards on the most friendly terms, a single misunderstanding of a moment excepted. His letters to Southey contain the first indications of his genuine humor, and from thein we make our first extract.
“My tailor has brought me home a new coat, lapelled, with a velvet collar. He assures me everybody wears velvet collars now. Some are born fashionable, some achieve fashion, and others, like your humble servant, have fashion thrust upon them. The rogue has been making inroads hitherto by modest degrees, foisting upon me an additional button, recommending gaiters, but to come upon me thus in a full tide of luxury, neither becomes him as a tailor or the ninth of a man. My meek gentleman was robbed the other day, coming with his wife and family in a one-horse shay from Hampstead, the villains rifled him of four guineas, some shillings and half-pence, and a bundle of customers' measures, which they swore were bank notes. They did not shoot him, and when they rode off he addressed them with profound gratitude, making a congee; 'Gentlemen, I wish you good night, and we are very much obliged to you that you have not used us ill!' And this is the cuckoo that has had the audacity to foist upon me ten buttons on a side, and a black velvet collar. A cursed ninth of a scoundrel !"
“ When you write to Lloyd, he wishes his Jacobin correspondents to address him as Mr. C. L.” – Vol. 1. pp. 93, 94.
The following whimsical questions are found in a letter to Southey, dated July 28th, 1798, written on the occasion of Coleridge's departure for Germany, “ to be by him defended or oppugned (or both) at Leipsic or Göttingen.”
“ 1. Whether God loves a lying angel better than a true man ?
" 2. Whether the archangel Uriel could knowingly affirm an untruth, and whether, if he could, he would ?
“ 3. Whether honesty be an angelic virtue, or not rather belonging to that class of qualities which the schoolmen term 'virtutes minus splendida, et hominis et terræ nimis partici
“ 4. Whether the seraphim ardentes do not manifest their goodness by the way of vision and theory ? and whether practice be not a sub-celestial, and merely human virtue?
“5. Whether the higher order of seraphim illuminati ever sneer ?
“6. Whether pure intelligences can love, or whether they can love
any thing besides pure intellect? “7. Whether the beatific vision be any thing more or less than a perpetual representment to each individual angel of his own present attainments, and future capabilities, something in the manner of mortal looking-glasses ?
“ 8. Whether an immortal and amenable soul may not come to be damned at last, and the man never suspect it beforehand ? – Vol. 1. pp. 97, 98.
In the year 1799, Lainb became acquainted with Mr. Manning, a mathematical tutor at Cambridge University. His correspondence with this gentleman contains some of the richest and raciest specimens of his humor. In allusion to his friend's project of visiting China, he writes ;
“My dear Manning, — The general scope of your letter afforded no indications of insanity, but some particular points raised a scruple. For God's sake don't think any more of Independent Tartary. What are you to do among such Ethiopians? Is there no lincal descendant of Prester John? Is the chair empty? Is the sword unswayed ? - depend upon it they 'll never make you their king, as long as any branch of that great stock is remaining. I tremble for your Christianity. Read Sir John Mandeville's Travels to cure you, or come over to England. There is a Tartar-man now exhibiting at Exeter 'Change. Come and talk with him, and hear what he says first. Indeed, he is no very favorable specimen of his countrymen! But perhaps the best thing you can do, is to try to get the idea out of your head. For this purpose repeat to yourself every night, after you have said your prayers, the words, Independent Tartary, Independent Tartary, iwo or three times, and associate with them the idea of oblivion, ('t is Hartley's method with obstinate memories,) or say, Independent, Independent, have I not already got an independence? That was a clever way of the old puritans, pun-divinity. My dear friend, think what a sad pity it would be to bury such parts in heathen countries, among nasty, unconversable, horse-belching, Tartar people! Some say, they are Cannibals; and then, conceive a Tartar-fellow eating my