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The Best Letters of Charles Lamb

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May 27, 1796.

Dear Coleridge,—Make yourself perfectly easy about May. I paid his bill when I sent your clothes. I was flush of money, and am so still to all the purposes of a single life; so give yourself no further concern about it. The money would be superfluous to me if I had it.

When Southey becomes as modest as his predecessor, Milton, and publishes his Epics in duodecimo, I will read 'em; a guinea a book is somewhat exorbitant, nor have I the opportunity of borrowing the work. The extracts from it in the "Monthly Review," and the short passages in your "Watchman," seem to me much superior to anything in his partnership account with Lovell. [1] Your poems I shall procure forthwith.

There were noble lines in what you inserted in one of your numbers from "Religious Musings," but I thought them elaborate. I am somewhat glad you have given up that paper; it must have been dry, unprofitable, and of dissonant mood to your disposition. I wish you success in all your undertakings, and am glad to hear you are employed about the "Evidences of Religion." There is need of multiplying such books a hundred-fold in this philosophical age, to prevent converts to atheism, for they seem too tough disputants to meddle with afterwards….

Coleridge, I know not what suffering scenes you have gone through at Bristol. My life has been somewhat diversified of late. The six weeks that finished last year and began this, your very humble servant spent very agreeably in a madhouse at Hoxton. I am got somewhat rational now, and don't bite any one. But mad I was and many a vagary my imagination played with me,—enough to make a volume, if all were told. My sonnets I have extended to the number of nine since I saw you, and will some day communicate to you. I am beginning a poem in blank verse, which, if I finish, I publish. White [2] is on the eve of publishing (he took the hint from Vortigern) "Original Letters of Falstaff, Shallow," etc.; a copy you shall have when it comes out. They are without exception the best imitations I ever saw. Coleridge, it may convince you of my regards for you when I tell you my head ran on you in my madness as much almost as on another person, who I am inclined to think was the more immediate cause of my temporary frenzy.

The sonnet I send you has small merit as poetry; but you will be curious to read it when I tell you it was written in my prison-house in one of my lucid intervals.


  If from my lips some angry accents fell,    Peevish complaint, or harsh reproof unkind,    'T was but the error of a sickly mind  And troubled thoughts, clouding the purer well    And waters clear of Reason; and for me    Let this my verse the poor atonement be,—    My verse, which thou to praise wert e'er inclined    Too highly, and with partial eye to see  No blemish. Thou to me didst ever show    Kindest affection; and wouldst oft-times lend    An ear to the desponding love-sick lay,    Weeping my sorrows with me, who repay  But ill the mighty debt of love I owe,    Mary, to thee, my sister and my friend....