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Sir Walter Scott to Mrs. Walter Scott-How to treat a Bore.
permitted him to get off the railway again to his own ground. In short, so thoroughly did I bore my bore that he sickened and gave in, taking a short leave of me. Seeing him in full retreat I then ventured to make the civil offer of a dinner. But the railroad had been breakfast, luncheon, dinner, and supper to boot; he hastily excused himself and left me at double-quick time, sick of railroads, I dare say, for six months to come. But I must not forget that I am perhaps abusing the privilege I have to bore you, being that of your affectionate papa.
How nicely we could manage without the said railroad, now the great hobby of our Teviotdale lairds, if we could, by any process of conjuration, waft to Abbottsford some of the coal and lime from Lochore; though, if I were to wish for such impossibilities, I would rather desire Prince Houssein's tapestry in the Arabian Nights, to bring Walter and Jane to us now and then, than I would wish for "Fife and all the lands about it."*
By the by, Jane, after all, though she looks so demure, is a very sly girl, and keeps her accomplishments to herself. You would not talk with me about planting and laying out ground; and yet, from what you had been doing at Kochore, I see what a pretty turn you have for these matters. I wish you were here to advise me about the little pond which we passed, where, if you remember, there is a new cottage built. I intend to plant it with aquatic trees, willows, alders, poplars, and so forth, and put trouts and perches into the water, and have a preserve of wild ducks on the pond, with Canadian geese and some other waterfowl. I am to get some eggs from Lord Traquair of a curious species of half-reclaimed wild ducks which abound near his solitary old chateau, and nowhere else in Scotland that I know of; *A song of Dr. Blacklock's.
Charles Lamb to Bernard Barton-Whimsical Description of a Bad Cold.
and I can get the Canadian geese, curious painted animals, that look as if they had flown out of a figured Chinese paper, from Mr. Murray, of Broughton. The foolish folks, when I was absent, chose to improve on my plan by making an island in the pond, which is exactly the size and shape of a Stilton cheese. It will be useful, however, for the fowl to breed in.
Mamma drove out your pony and carriage to-day. She was (twenty years ago) the best lady-whip in Edinburgh, and was delighted to find that she retained her dexterity. I hope she will continue to exercise the rein and whip now and then, as her health is much improved by moderate exercise.
Adieu, my dear Jane. Mamma and Anne join in the kindest love and best wishes, I please myself with the idea that I shall have heard you are well and happy long before this reaches you. Believe me always your affectionate father,
I hope you will take my good example, and write without caring or thinking either what you have got to say or in what words you say it.
XLIV.-WHIMSICAL DESCRIPTION OF A BAD COLD.*
Charles Lamb to Bernard Barton.
January 9th, 1824.
DEAR B. B.: Do you know what it is to succumb under an insurmountable day-mare-" a whoreson lethargy," Falstaff calls it--an indisposition to do any thing, or to be any thing; a total deadness and distaste; a suspension of vitality; an indiffer
* Dr. James Alexander, describing a visit to the India House, says he inquired for Charles Lamb of the doorkeeper. He replied he had been there
Charles Lamb to Bernard Barton-Whimsical Description of a Bad Cold.
ence to locality; a numb, soporifical, good-for-nothingness; an ossification all over; an oysterlike insensibility to the passing events; a mind-stupor; a brawny defiance to the needles of a thrusting-in conscience? Did you ever have a very bad cold, with a total irresolution to submit to water-gruel processes? This has been for many weeks my lot, and my excuse; my fingers drag heavily over this paper, and to my thinking, it is three and twenty furlongs from here to the end of this demi-sheet. I have not a thing to say; nothing is of more importance than another; I am flatter than a denial or a pancake; emptier than Judge's wig when the head is in it; duller than a country stage when the actors are off it; a cipher, an O! I acknowledge life at all only by an occasional convulsional cough, and a permanent phlegmatic pain in the chest. I am weary of the world; life is weary of me. My day is gone into twilight, and I don't think it worth the expense of candles. My wick hath a thief in it, but I can't muster courage to suuff it. I inhale suffocation; I can't distinguish veal from mutton; nothing interests
since he was sixteen years old, and had never heard of any Mr. Lamb. But the doorkeeper of the museum remembered him well. "Oh yes, sir, he was a very little man, with such small legs, and wore knee breeches." He directed me to a private stair, which would take me down to the accounts. I went into a place below like a bank, and was shown to a principal person, Mr. W. It was the room in which Lamb wrote many years, but had been altered. Mr. W. showed me his window and where his desk was. I looked out at the high blank wall, not five feet beyond, and understood Lamb's "India House." Mr. W. showed me a quarto volume of Interest Tables, with such remarks as these, in Lamb's fine, round hand on the fly-leaf: "A book of much interest.Ed. Rev." "A work in which the interest never flags.-Q. Rev.” say of this volume that the interest increases from the beginning to the end.Monthly Rev." Mr. W. knew Lamb well. "He was a small man, smaller than you, and always wore shorts and black gaiters. Sometimes his puns were poor. He often came late, and then he would say, "Well, I will make up for it by going away early."-H.
Charles Lamb to Bernard Barton-Whimsical Description of a Bad Cold,
me. "Tis twelve o'clock and Thurtell is just now coming out upon the New Drop, Jack Ketch alertly tucking up his greasy sleeves to do the last office of mortality, yet cannot I elicit a groan or a moral reflection. If you told me the world will be at an end to-morrow, I should just say, "Will it?" I have not volition enough left to dot my i's, much less to comb my eyebrows; my eyes are set in my head; my brains are gone out to see a poor relation in Moorfields, and they did not say when they'd come back again; my skull is a Grub street attic to let— not so much as a joint-stool or a crack'd jordan left in it; my hand writes, not I, from habit, as chickens run about a little when their heads are off. O for a vigorous fit of gout, colic, toothache--an earwig in my auditory, a fly in my visual organs. Pain is life-the sharper the more evidence of life; but this apathy, this death! Did you ever have an obstinate cold-a six or seven weeks' unintermitting chill and suspension of hope, fear, conscience, and every thing? Yet do I try all I can to cure it; I try wine and spirits, and smoking, and snuff in unsparing quantities; but they all only seem to make me worse instead of better. I sleep in a damp room, but it does me no good; I come home late o' nights, but do not find any visible amendment! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? It is just fifteen minutes after twelve; Thurtell is by this time a good way on his journey, baiting at Scorpion perhaps! Ketch is bargaining for his cast-coat and waistcoat; the Jew demurs at first at three half-crowns, but on consideration that he may get somewhat by showing them in the town, finally closes.
Charles Lamb to Mrs. Haslett-Travelling with a well-informed Man.
XLV. TRAVELLING WITH "A WELL-INFORMED MAN"-ECCENTRIC BARRISTER.
Charles Lamb to Mrs. Haslett.
May 24th, 1830.
"Mary's love? Yes. Mary Lamb is quite well."
DEAR SARAH: I found my way to Northan on Thursday, and saw a very good woman behind a counter, who says also that you are a very good lady. I did not accept her offered glass of wine (homemade I take it), but craved a cup of ale, with which I seasoned a slice of cold lamb, from a sandwich box, which I ate in her back parlor, and proceeded for Berkhampstead, etc.; lost myself over a heath, and had a day's pleasure. I wish you could walk as I do, and as you used to do. I am sorry to find you are so poorly; and, now I have found my way, I wish you back at Goody Tomlinson's. What a pretty village 'tis. I should have come sooner, but was waiting a summons to Bury. Well, it came, and I found the good parson's lady (he was from home) exceedingly hospitable.
Poor Emma, the first moment we were alone, took me into a
corner, and said: "Now, pray, don't drink "Now, pray, don't drink; do check yourself after dinner, for my sake, and when we get home to Enfield you shall drink as much as ever you please, and I won't say a word about it." How I behaved you may guess, when I tell you that Mrs. Williams and I have written acrostics on each other, and she hoped that she should have "no reason to regret Miss Isola's recovery, by its depriving her of our begun correspondence." Emma stayed a month with us, and has gone back (in tolerable health) to her long home, for she comes not again for a twelvemonth. I amused Mrs. Williams with an occurrence on our road to Enfield. We travelled with one of those troublesome