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His devotees exalt his wisdom, his profound thought, his penetrating criticism of life, his great knowledge of the human heart.

His wisdom is that of a contemplative man for whom the true life is a dream, and who avoids as far as possible the contact of realities. And it is useless to look to him for the conduct of life. His thought, turned in this direction by great misfortunes and confirmed in this habit by the reading which he sought for consolation, glides over these deeper questions with a humour halfplayful and half-solemn, skims their surface, but into their depths never sinks.

This is not quite the tone of the English panegyrists of Lamb, nor will you find anything in Mr. Lucas's two large volumes that shows this kind of critical penetration. He is weak where the French writer is strongest, and yet for another reason the English biography, perhaps, takes you nearer than the other to the secret of Lamb's spell. From a study of contemporary literature Mr. Lucas has made his work not so much a life of Lamb alone as a series of chapters on the characters, great and small, who composed Lamb's circle. There is no better criterion of a book than the other books it sends you immediately to read, and after laying down this biography I turned almost instinctively to Cicero's De Amicitia and to Montaigne's De l'Amitié, and, reading these, I began to understand how much of the magical appeal of Lamb's writings is due to the quintessence of friendship he has distilled into them. It is not the brave mingling of souls in the pursuit

of virtue which the philosophers vaunt, nor could it be likened to that omnium divinarum humanarumque rerum cum benevolentia et caritate summa consensio, to use the rolling eloquence of Cicero. I fear the bond of union was rather one of those "incommodities of mortality," which a later Roman deplored, but which Lamb turned to such sweet advantage: Nec tantum necessitas errandi sed errorum amor. And it had little of that "inexplicable and fatal force" that drove Montaigne and La Boétie to seek, before they had seen, each other, and made of their two wills one at first sight. Something of these lofty modes coloured the early union of Lamb and Coleridge, but it only served to introduce a vein of mawkishness into his first letters, and luckily did not endure. Nor was this youthful ideal of friendship unconscious. with him. In these days he was writing his tragedy of John Woodvil, which turns on that theme.

I have been meditating this half-hour
On all the properties of a brave friendship,
The mysteries that are in it, the noble uses,
Its limits withal, and its nice boundaries—

says the hero of the play, and decides that it is not enough for a man to die for a friend, but he must wantonly place himself in the friend's power by betraying to him a family secret.

There needed a baptism of tears—and gin-to bring Lamb to a kind of earthly regeneration. The tragedy of Mary's life and the disappoint

ments of his own soon taught him the hollowness of his exaltations; the "ragged regiment" that lured him into London streets perfected the cure. "Twelve years ago," he afterwards wrote in one of his semi-confessional essays, "I had completed my six and twentieth year. I had lived from the period of leaving school to that time pretty much in solitude. My companions were chiefly books, or at most one or two living ones of my bookloving and sober stamp. I rose early, went to bed betimes, and the faculties which God had given me, I had reason to think, did not rust in me unused. About that time I fell in with some companions of a different order. They were men of boisterous spirits, sitters up a-nights, disputants, drunken; yet seemed to have something noble about them. We dealt about the wit, or what passes for it after midnight, jovially. Of the quality called fancy I certainly possessed a larger share than my companions. Encouraged by their applause, I set up for a profest joker!"— Yes, I fear it was those contemners of the law, Fenwick and Fell (how their names smack of naughtiness!), that created for us the true Charles Lamb.

To Lamb himself there must have been a malicious joy in thinking that the acquaintance with Fenwick came through Godwin, who differed from that disreputable prowler in everythingeven in his manner of taking gifts. Immortal Fenwick, whom we know as Ralph Bigod, Esq.,

setting forth in London streets, "like some Alexander, upon his great enterprise, 'borrowing and to borrow!'"-alas! his lofty spirit could noċ snatch him from the vulgar fate of mankind; he too passed away, save in Lamb's heroic epicedium:

When I think of this man: his fiery glow of heart; his swell of feeling; how magnificent, how ideal he was ; how great at the midnight hour; and when I compare with him the companions with whom I have associated since, I grudge the saving of a few idle ducats, and think that I am fallen into the society of lenders, and little


R. Fell, also, a man of humbler genius, we surmise, came to Lamb through Godwin; and Southey tells that once, when the Philosopher in his own room had dropped asleep before them, they carried off his rum, brandy, sugar, picked his pockets of everything, and made off in triumph."

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These, then, were the mystagogues who initiated Lamb back into humanity. "He found them," as he was to write of those days in reminiscence, "floating on the surface of society; and the colour, or something else, in the weed pleased him. The burrs stuck to him-but they were good and loving burrs for all that. He never greatly cared for the society of what are called good people. If any of these were scandalised (and offences were sure to arise), he could not help it."

One must allow, of course, for the note of mis

chievous exaggeration in all these retrospective confessions, but a period of retirement at Newgate vouches for the character of Fell, and Lamb's own whilom elevation in the stocks shows that his amusements may at least have been rather tumultuous. He came out of these experiences the most immaculate of roués, let us say; the sweetest and most exemplary of sinners. Henceforth to the physical responsibilities of life he submits bravely, almost heroically, yet in his mind he " yearns after and covets what soothes the frailty of human nature." I like to think of his later associations, except for their beautiful fidelity, in those lines of Euripides :

Full many things the days have taught:

I know that mortal men should rest

In moderate friendships, know how fraught
With fear the raptures of the breast;
Safer these unions of the mind,

When light to loose and swift to bind..

The unyielding rules of life, they say,
Bring more of peril than of pleasure,
And on the body prey;

So I commend the golden measure,
The too-much put away.


Brave and learned men were among Lamb's friends, but in his chambers they met together to confute philosophy with a pun, and to pack wisdom into a jest. Good and sustained conversation there often was, but no rigour of logic (this was reserved for the game), and above all no crabbed politics. These Attic nights in the Inner

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