Mary Lamb (Gilchrist 1883)/Chapter 15

Mary Lamb  (1883)  by Anne Gilchrist
Chapter XV.

CHAPTER XV.

Lamb's Ill-health.—Retirement from the India House, and subsequent Illness.—Letter from Mary to Lady Stoddart.—Colebrook Cottage left.—Mary's constant Attacks.—Home given up.—Board with the WestWoods.—Death of Hazlitt.—Removal to Edmonton.—Marriage of Emma Isola.—Mary's sudden Recovery.—Ill again.—Death of Coleridge.—Death of Charles.—Mary's Last Days and Death.

1824-47.—Æt. 60-83.

The year 1824 was one of the best Mary ever enjoyed. Alas! it was not the precursor of others like it, but rather a farewell gleam before the clouds gathered up thicker and thicker till the light of reason was permanently obscured. In November Charles wrote to Miss Hutchinson: "We had promised our dear friends the Monkhouses" [relatives of Mrs. Wordsworth]—"promised ourselves, rather a visit to them at Ramsgate; but I thought it best, and Mary seemed to have it at heart too, not to go far from home these last holidays. It is connected with a sense of unsettlement, and secretly I know she hoped that such abstinence would be friendly to her health. She certainly has escaped her sad yearly visitation, whether in consequence of it, or of faith in it, and we have to be thankful for a good 1824. To get such a notion in our heads may go a great way another year. Not that we quite confined ourselves; but, assuming Islington to be head-quarters, we made timid flights to Ware, Watford, &c., to try how trouts tasted, for a night out or so, not long enough to make the sense of change oppressive, but sufficient to scour the rust of home."

With Lamb it was quite otherwise. The letters of this year show that health and spirits were flagging sorely. He had, ever since 1820, been working at high pressure; producing in steady, rapid succession, his matchless Essays in the London Magazine, and this at the end of a long day's office work. His delicate, nervous organisation could not fail to suffer from the continued strain; not to mention the ever present and more terrible one of his sister's health.

At last his looks attracted the notice of one of his chiefs, and it was intimated that a resignation might be accepted; as it was after some anxious delays; and a provision for Mary, if she survived, was guaranteed in addition to his comfortable pension. The sense of freedom was almost overwhelming. "Mary wakes every morning with an obscure feeling that some good has happened to us," he writes. "Leigh Hunt and Montgomery, after their releasements, describe the shock of their emancipation much as I feel mine. But it hurt their frames; I eat, drink, and sleep as sound as ever."

A reaction did come, however. Lamb continued pretty well through the spring, but in the summer he was prostrated by a severe attack of nervous fever. In July he wrote to Bernard Barton: " My nervous attack has so unfitted me that I have not courage to sit down to a letter, My poor pittance in the London you will see is drawn from my sickness" (The Convalescent, which appeared July 1825).

One more glimpse of Mary in a letter from her own hand. Again the whole summer was being spent in lodgings at Enfield, whence Mary wrote to congratulate her old friend Mrs., now Lady, Stoddart—her husband having become Chief Justice of Malta—on the marriage of a daughter:—

"August 9, 1827.

"My dear Lady-Friend,—My brother called at our empty cottage [Colebrook] yesterday, and found the cards of your son, and his friend Mr. Hine, under the door; which has brought to my mind that I am in danger of losing this post, as I did the last, being at that time in a confused state of mind—for at that time we were talking of leaving, and persuading ourselves that we were intending to leave town and all our friends, and sit down for ever, solitary and forgotten here. . . . Here we are, and we have locked up our house, and left it to take care of itself; but, at present, we do not design to extend our rural life beyond Michaelmas. Your kind letter was most welcome to me, though the good news contained in it was already known to me. Accept my warmest congratulations, though they come a little of the latest. In my next I may probably have to hail you grandmama, or to felicitate you on the nuptials of pretty Mary who, whatever the beaux of Malta may think of her, I can only remember her round shining face, and her 'O William! dear William!' when we visited her the other day at school. Present my love and best wishes—a long and happy married life to dear Isabella—I love to call her Isabella; but in truth, having left your other letter in town, I recollect no other name she has. The same love and the same wishes—in futuro—to my friend Mary. Tell her that her 'dear William' grows taller, and improves in manly looks and man-like behaviour every time I see him. What is Henry about? and what should one wish for him? If he be in search of a wife, I will send him out Emma Isola.

"You remember Emma, that you were so kind as to invite to your ball? She is now with us; and I am moving heaven and earth, that is to say, I am pressing the matter upon all the very few friends I have that are likely to assist me in such a case, to get her into a family as governess; and Charles and I do little else here than teach her something or other all day long.

"We are striving to put enough Latin into her to enable her to begin to teach it to young learners. So much for Emma—for you are so fearfully far away that I fear it is useless to implore your patronage for her. . . .

"I expect a pacquet of manuscript from you. You promised me the office of negociating with booksellers and so forth for your next work." [Lady Stoddart published several tales under the name of Blackford.] "Is it in good forwardness? Or do you grow rich and indolent now? It is not surprising that your Maltese story should find its way into Malta; but I was highly pleased with the idea of your pleasant surprise at the sight of it. I took a large sheet of paper, in order to leave Charles room to add something more worth reading than my poor mite. May we all meet again once more."

It was to escape the "dear weariness" of incessant friendly visitors, which they were now less than ever able to bear, that they had taken refuge in the Enfield lodging.

"We have been here near three months, and shall stay two more if people will let us alone; but they persecute us from village to village," Lamb writes to Bernard Barton in August.

At the end of that time they decided to return to Colebrook Cottage no more, but to take a house at Enfield. The actual process of taking it was witnessed by a spectator, a perfect stranger at the time, on whose memory it left a lively picture. "Leaning idly out of a window, I saw a group of three issuing from the 'gambogy-looking' cottage close at hand,—a slim, middle-aged man, in quaint, uncontemporary habiliments, a rather shapeless bundle of an old lady, in a bonnet like a mob cap, and a young girl; while before them bounded a riotous dog (Hood's immortal 'Dash'), holding a board with 'This House to Let' on it in his jaws. Lamb was on his way back to the house-agent, and that was his fashion of announcing that he had taken the premises.

"I soon grew to be on intimate terms with my neighbours," continues the writer of this pleasant reminiscence—Mr. Westwood,in Notes and Queries, vol. x. "who let me loose in his library. . . . My heart yearns even now to those old books. Their faces seem all familiar to me, even their patches and blotches—the work of a wizened old cobbler hard by—for little wotted Lamb of Roger Parkes and Charles Lewises. A cobbler was his book-binder, and the rougher the restoration the better. . . . When any notable visitors made their appearance at the cottage, Mary Lamb's benevolent tap at my window-pane seldom failed to summon me out, and I was presently ensconced in a quiet corner of their sitting-room, half hid in some great man's shadow.

"Of the discourse of these dii majores I have no recollection now; but the faces of some of them I can still partially recall. Hazlitt's face, for instance, keen and aggressive, with eyes that flashed out epigram. Tom Hood's, a methodist parson's face, not a ripple breaking the lines of it, though every word he dropped was a pun, and every pun roused roars of laughter. Leigh Hunt's, parcel genial, parcel democratic, with as much rabid politics on his lips as honey from Mount Hybla. Miss Kelly [the little Barbara S. of Elia], plain but engaging, the most unprofessional of actresses and unspoiled of women; the bloom of the child on her cheek undefaced by the rouge, to speak in metaphors. She was one of the most dearly welcome of Lamb's guests. Wordsworth's, farmerish and respectable, but with something of the great poet occasionally breaking out, and glorifying forehead and eyes. . . ."

Mary did not escape her usual seizure. "You will understand my silence," writes Lamb to his Quaker friend, "when I tell you that my sister, on the very eve of entering into a new house we have taken at Enfield, was surprised with an attack of one of her sad long illnesses, which deprive me of her society, though not of her domestication, for eight or nine weeks together. I see her, but it does her no good. But for this, we have the snuggest, most comfortable house, with everything most compact and desirable. Colebrook is a wilderness. The books, prints, &c. are come here, and the New River came down with us. The familiar prints, the busts, the Milton, seem scarce to have changed their rooms. One of her last observations was, 'How frightfully like this is to our room at Islington,'—our upstair room she meant. We have tried quiet here for four months, and I will answer for the comfort of it enduring." And again, later: "I have scarce spirits to write. Nine weeks are completed, and Mary does not get any better. It is perfectly exhausting. Enfield and everything is very gloomy. But for long experience, I should fear her ever getting well."

She did get "pretty well and comfortable again" before the year was quite out, but it did not last long. Times grew sadder and sadder for the faithful brother. There are two long, oft-quoted letters to Bernard Barton, written in July 1829, which who has ever read without a pang?

"My sister is again taken ill," he says, "and I am obliged to remove her out of the house for many weeks, I fear, before I can hope to have her again. I have been very desolate indeed. My loneliness is a little abated by our young friend Emma having just come here for her holidays, and a school-fellow of hers that was with her. Still the house is not the same, though she is the same. Mary had been pleasing herself with the prospect of seeing her at this time; and with all their company, the house feels at times a frightful solitude. . . . But town, with all my native hankering after it, is not what it was. . . . I was frightfully convinced of this as I passed houses and places—empty caskets now. I have ceased to care almost about anybody. The bodies I cared for are in graves or dispersed. . . . Less than a month I hope will bring home Mary. She is at Fulham, looking better in her health than ever, but sadly rambling, and scarce showing any pleasure in seeing me, or curiosity when I should come again. But the old feelings will come back again, and we shall drown old sorrows over a game of picquet again. But 'tis a tedious cut out of a life of fifty-four to lose twelve or thirteen weeks every year or two. And, to make me more alone, our ill-tempered maid is gone [Becky] who, with all her airs, was yet a home-piece of furniture, a record of better days. The young thing that has succeeded her is good and attentive, but she is nothing; and I have no one here to talk over old matters with. Scolding and quarrelling have something of familiarity and a community of interest; they imply acquaintance; they are of resentment which is of the family of dearness. Well, I shall write merrier anon. 'Tis the present copy of my countenance I send, and to complain is a little to alleviate. May you enjoy yourself as far as the wicked world will let you, and think that you are not quite alone as I am."

To the friends who came to see him he made no complaints, nor showed a sad countenance; but it was hard that he might not relieve his drear solitude by the sights and sounds of beloved London. "O never let the lying poets be believed," he writes to Wordsworth, "who 'tice men from the cheerful haunts of streets; or think they mean it not of a country village. In the ruins of Palmyra I could gird myself up to solitude, or muse to the snorings of the Seven Sleepers; but to have a little teazing image of a town about one; country folks that do not look like country folks; shops two yards square; half-a-dozen apples and two penn'orth of over-looked ginger-bread for the lofty fruiterers of Oxford Street; and for the immortal book and print stalls, a circulating library that stands still, where the show-picture is a last year's valentine. . . . The very blackguards here are degenerate; the topping gentry, stock-brokers; the passengers too many to insure your quiet or let you go about whistling or gaping, too few to be the fine, indifferent pageants of Fleet Street. . . . A garden was the primitive prison till man, with Promethean felicity and boldness, luckily sinned himself out of it. Thence followed Babylon, Nineveh, Venice, London, haberdashers, goldsmiths, taverns, satires, epigrams, puns,—these all came in on the town part and the thither side of innocence. . . ." In the same letter he announces that they have been obliged to give up home altogether, and have "taken a farewell of the pompous, troublesome trifle called house-keeping, and settled down into poor boarders and lodgers at next door with an old couple, the Baucis and Baucida of dull Enfield. Here we have nothing to do with our victuals but to eat them, with the garden but to see it grow, with the tax-gatherer but to hear him knock, with the maid but to hear her scolded. Scot and lot, butcher, baker, are things unknown to us save as spectators of the pageant. We are fed, we know not how; quietists, confiding ravens. . . . Mary must squeeze out a line propria manu, but indeed her fingers have been incorrigibly nervous to letter-writing for a long interval. 'Twill please you all to hear that, though I fret like a lion in a net, her present health and spirits are better than they have been for some time past. She is absolutely three years and a half younger since we adopted this boarding plan! . . . Under this roof I ought now to take my rest, but that back-looking ambition, more delightful, tells me I might yet be a Londoner! Well, if ever we do move, we have encumbrances the less to impede us; all our furniture has faded under the auctioneer's hammer, going for nothing, like the tarnished frippery of the prodigal, and we have only a spoon or two left to bless us. Clothed we came into Enfield, and naked we must go out of it. I would live in London shirtless, bookless."

Now that Mary was recovered they did venture to try once more the experiment of London lodgings at 24 Southampton Buildings, Holborn, where Hazlitt had often stayed. But the result was worse even than could have been anticipated. May 12, 1830, Lamb writes: "I have brought my sister to Enfield, being sure she had no hope of recovery in London. Her state of mind is deplorable beyond any example. I almost fear whether she has strength, at her time of life, ever to get out of it. Here she must be nursed and neither see nor hear of anything in the world out of her sick chamber. The mere hearing that Southey had called at our lodgings totally upset her. Pray see him or hear of him at Mr. Rickman's and excuse my not writing to him. I dare not write or receive a letter in her presence."

Another old friend, the one whom, next to Coleridge, Wordsworth and Manning, Lamb valued most, died this year. Hazlitt's strength had been for some time declining; and during the summer of 1830 he lay at his lodgings, 6 Frith Street, Soho, languishing in what was to prove his death illness, though he was but fifty-two; his mind clear and active as ever, looking back, as he said, upon his past life which 'seemed as if he had slept it out in a dream or shadow on the side of the hill of knowledge, where he had fed on books, on thoughts, on pictures and only heard in half-murmurs the trampling of busy feet or the noises of the throng below.' 'I have had a happy life,' were his last words. Unfortunate in love and marriage, perhaps scarcely capable of friendship, he found the warmth of life, the tie that bound him to humanity in the fervour of his admiration for all that is great, or beautiful, or powerful in literature, in art, in heroic achievement. His ideas, as he said of himself, were "of so sinewy a character that they were in the nature of realities" to him. Lamb was by his death-bed that 18th of September.

Godwin still lived, but there seems to have been little intercourse between the old friends. Manning was often away travelling on the Continent. Martin Burney maintained his place 'on the top scale of the Lambs' friendship ladder, on which an angel or two were still climbing, and some, alas! descending,' and oftenest enlivened the solitude of Enfield. He "is as good and as odd as ever," writes Charles to Mrs. Hazlitt. "We had a dispute about the word 'heir,' which I contended was pronounced like 'air,' He said that might be in common parlance, or that we might so use it speaking of the 'Heir-at-Law,' a comedy, but that in the law courts it was necessary to give it a full aspiration and to say Hayer; he thought it might even vitiate a cause if a counsel pronounced it otherwise. In conclusion he 'would consult Serjeant Wilde'—who gave it against him. Sometimes he falleth into the water; sometimes into the fire. He came down here and insisted on reading Virgil's 'Eneid' all through with me (which he did), because a Counsel must know Latin. Another time he read out all the Gospel of St. John, because Biblical quotations are very emphatic in a Court of Justice. A third time he would carve a fowl, which he did very ill-favouredly, because 'we did not know how indispensable it was for a barrister to do all those things well. Those little things were of more consequence than we supposed.' So he goes on, harassing about the way to prosperity and losing it; with a long head, but somewhat a wrong one—harum–scarum. Why does not his guardian angel look to him? He deserves one; may-be he has tired him out."

A cheerful glimpse of the brother and sister occurs now and then in the Diary of their old friend, Crabb Robinson, in these days wheu the dark times were so long and the bright intervals so short and far between. March 1832 he writes:–"I walked to Enfield and found the Lambs in excellent state,–not in high health, but, what is far better, quiet and cheerful. I had a very pleasant evening at whist. Lamb was very chatty and altogether as I could wish." And again in July, ". . reached Lamb at the lucky moment before tea. After tea Lamb and I took a pleasant walk together. He was in excellent health and tolerable spirits, and was to-night quite eloquent in praise of Miss Isola. He says she is the most sensible girl and the best female talker he knows. . . . he is teaching her Italian without knowing the language himself." Two months later the same friend took Walter Savage Landor to pay them a visit. "We had scarcely an hour to chat with them, but it was enough to make Landor express himself delighted with the person of Mary Lamb and pleased with the conversation of Charles Lamb, though I thought him by no means at his ease, and Miss Lamb was quite silent."

Scarcely ever did Charles leave home for many hours together when Mary was there to brighten it; not even for the temptation of seeing the Wordsworths or Coleridge. "I want to see the Wordsworths," he writes, "but I do not much like to be all night away. It is dull enough to be here together, but it is duller to leave Mary; in short, it is painful"; and to Coleridge, who had been hurt by the long interval since he had seen them, Lamb writes:—"Not an unkind thought has passed in my brain about you; but I have been wofully neglectful of you. . . . old loves to and hope of kind looks from the Gillmans when I come. If ever you thought an offence, much more wrote it against me, it must have been in the times of Noah and the great waters swept it away. Mary's most kind love, and may be a wrong prophet of your bodings! here she is crying for mere love over your letter. I wring out less but not sincerer showers."

The spring of 1833 brought to Charles and Mary only the return of dark days. Lamb writes to Wordsworth:—

"Your letter, save in what respects your dear sister's health, cheered me in my new solitude. Mary is ill again. Her illnesses encroach yearly. The last was three months followed by two of depression most dreadful. I look back upon her earlier attacks with longing: nice little durations of six weeks or so, followed by complete restoration,—shocking as they were then to me. In short, half her life she is dead to me, and the other half is made anxious with fears and lookings forward to the next shock. With such prospects it seemed to me necessary that she should no longer live with me and fluttered with continual removals; so I am come to live with her at a Mr. Walden's and his wife [at Edmonton], who take in patients, and have arranged to lodge and board us only. They have had the care of her before. I see little of her: alas! I too often hear her. Sunt lachrymæ rerum! and you and I must bear it.

"To lay a little more load on it, a circumstance has happened (cujus pars magna fui), and which at another crisis I should have more rejoiced in. I am about to lose my old and only walk companion, whose mirthful spirits were the 'youth of our house,'—Emma Isola. I have her here now for a little while, but she is too nervous properly to be under such a roof, so she will make short visits—be no more an inmate. With my perfect approval and more than concurrence she is to be wedded to Moxon at the end of August. So 'perish the roses and the flowers!'—how is it?

"Now to the brighter side. I am emancipated from the Westwoods and I am with attentive people and younger. I am three or four miles nearer the great city; coaches half price less and going always, of which I will avail myself. I have few friends left there, one or two, though, most beloved. But London streets and faces cheer me inexpressibly, though not one known of the latter were remaining. . . . I am feeble but cheerful in this my genial hot weather. Walked sixteen miles yesterday. I can't read much in summer-time."

There was no sense of being "pulled up by the roots" now in these removals. Lamb had and could have no home since she who had been its chief pride was in perpetual banishment from him and from herself. The following notelet which Talfourd, in his abundance, probably did not think worth publishing, at any rate shows with mournful significance how bitter were his recollections of Enfield, to which they had gone full of hope. It was written to Mr. Gillman's eldest son, a young clergyman, desirous of the incumbency of Enfield:—

"By a strange occurrence we have quitted Enfield for ever! Oh! the happy eternity! Who is Vicar or Lecturer for that detestable place concerns us not. But Asbury, surgeon and a good fellow, has offered to get you a Mover and Seconder, and you may use my name freely to him. Except him and Dr. Creswell, I have no respectable acquaintance in the dreary village. At least my friends are all in the public line, and it might not suit to have it moved at a special vestry by John Gage at the Crown and Horseshoe, licensed victualler, and seconded by Joseph Horner of the Green Dragon, ditto, that the Rev. J. G. is a fit person to be Lecturer, &c.

"My dear James, I wish you all success, but am too full of my own emancipation almost to congratulate anyone else."

Miss Isola's wedding-day came, and still Mary's mind was under eclipse; but the announcement of the actual event restored her as by magic; and here is her own letter of congratulation to the bride and bridegroom,—the last from her hand:—

"My Dear Emma and Edward Moxon,

"Accept my sincere congratulations and imagine more good wishes than my weak nerves will let me put into good, set words. The dreary blank of unanswered questions which I ventured to ask in vain, was cleared up on the wedding-day by Mrs. W. taking a glass of wine and, with a total change of countenance, begging leave to drink Mr and Mrs. Moxon's health. It restored me from that moment, as if by an electric shock, to the entire possession of my senses. I never felt so calm and quiet after a similar illness as I do now. I feel as if all tears were wiped from my eyes and all care from my heart."

To which beautiful last words Charles adds:—

"Dears again—Your letter interrupted a seventeenth game at picquet which we were having after walking to Wright's and purchasing shoes. We pass our time in cards, walks, and reading. We attack Tasso soon. Never was such a calm or such a recovery. 'Tis her own words undictated."

Not Tasso only was attacked, but even Dante. "You will be amused to hear," he tells Carey, "that my sister and I have, with the aid of Emma, scrambled through the Inferno by the blessed furtherance of your polar-star translation. I think we scarce left anything un-madeout. But our partner has left us and we have not yet resumed. Mary's chief pride in it was that she should some day brag of it to you."

The year 1834, the last of Lamb's life, opened gloomily. Early in February was written one of the saddest and sweetest of all his utterances concerning Mary. With the exception of a brief, mournful allusion to her in his latest letter to Wordsworth these were his last written words about her, and they breathe the same tenderness and unswerving devotion at the close of his life-long struggle and endurance for her sake as those he wrote when it began. The letter is to Miss Fryer, an old school-fellow of Emma Isola:–"Your letter found me just returned from keeping my birthday (pretty innocent!) at Dover Street [the Moxons]. I see them pretty often. In one word, be less uneasy about me; I bear my privations very well; I am not in the depths of desolation as heretofore. Your admonitions are not lost upon me. Your kindness has sunk into my heart. Have faith in me! It is no new thing for me to be left to my sister. When she is not violent her rambling chat is better to me than the sense and sanity of this world. Her heart is obscured, not buried; it breaks out occasionally; and one can discern a strong mind struggling with the billows that have gone over it. I could be nowhere happier than under the same roof with her. Her memory is unnaturally strong; and from ages past, if we may so call the earliest records of our poor life, she fetches thousands of names and things that never would have dawned upon me again, and thousands from the ten years she lived before me. What took place from early girlhood to her coming of age principally live again (every important thing and every trifle) in her brain, with the vividness of real presence. For twelve hours incessantly she will pour out without intermission all her past life, forgetting nothing, pouring out name after name to the Waldens, as a dream, sense and nonsense, truth and errors huddled together, a medley between inspiration and possession. What things we are! I know you will bear with me talking of things. It seems to ease me, for I have nobody to tell these things to now. . . ."

A week later was written that last little letter to Wordsworth (the reader will recognize Louisa Martin–Monkey–so prettily described in Lamb's first letter to Hazlitt):–"I write from a house of mourning. The oldest and best friends I have left are in trouble. A branch of them (and they of the best stock of God's creatures, I believe) is establishing a school at Carlisle. Her name is Louisa Martin. For thirty years she has been tried by me, and on her behaviour I would stake my soul. Oh! if you could recommend her, how would I love you≠if I could love you better! Pray, pray recommend he–. She is as good a human creature–next to my sister, perhaps, the most exemplary female I ever knew. Moxon tells me you would like a letter from me; you shall have one. This I cannot mingle up with any nonsense which you usually tolerate from C. Lamb. Poor Mary is ill again, after a short, lucid interval of four or five months. In short, I may call her half dead to me. Good you are to me. Yours, with fervour of friendship, for ever."

The dearest friend of all, Coleridge, long in declining health—the "hooded eagle, flagging wearily," was lying this spring and summer in his last painful illness—heart disease chiefly, but complicated with other sources of suffering—borne with heroic patience. Thoughts of his youth came to him, he said, 'like breezes from the Spice islands;' and under the title of that poem written in the glorious Nether Stowey days when Charles was his guest,—This Lime-tree Bower my Prison,—he wrote a little while before he died:—

Charles and Mary Lamb,

Dear to my heart, yea, as it were my heart.

S. T. C. Æt. 63, 1834.

1797

1834


37 years!

He drew his last breath on the 25th of July. At first Lamb seemed wholly unable to grasp the fact that he was gone. "Coleridge is dead!" he murmured continually, as if to convince himself. He 'grieved that he could not grieve.' "But since," he wrote in that beautiful memorial of his friend—the last fragment shaped by his hand—"but since, I feel how great a part of me he was. His great and dear spirit haunts me.... He was my fifty-year old friend without a dissension. Never saw I his likeness, nor probably the world can see it again. I seem to love the house he died at more passionately than when he lived. I love the faithful Gillman's more than while they exercised their virtues towards him living. What was his mansion is consecrated to me a chapel."

A month after this was written Charles Lamb followed his friend. A seemingly slight accident, a fall which wounded his face, brought on erysipelas, and he sank rapidly, dying the 27th December 1834. For once, Mary's affliction befriended her. Though her mind was not wholly obscured at the time, for she was able to show the spot in Edmonton churchyard where her brother had wished to be buried, yet it was so far deadened that she was unable to comprehend what had befallen her; and thus she remained for nearly a year.

None thought of Mary with tenderer sympathy than Landor, or strove with more sincerity to offer "consolation to the finest genius that ever descended on the heart of woman," as he fervently described her. "When I first heard of the loss that all his friends, and many that never were his friends, sustained in him," he wrote to Crabb Robinson, "no thought took possession of my mind except the anguish of his sister. That very night, before I closed my eyes, I composed this:— {{dhr||

TO THE SISTER OF CHARLES LAMB.

Comfort thee, O thou mourner! yet awhile
Again shall Elia's smile
Refresh thy heart, whose heart can ache no more.
What is it we deplore?
He leaves behind him, freed from grief and years,
Far worthier things than tears,
The love of friends without a single foe;
Unequalled lot below!
His gentle soul, his genius, these are thine;
Shalt thou for these repine?
He may have left the lowly walks of men;
Left them he has: what then?

Are not his footsteps followed by the eyes
Of all the good and wise?
Though the warm day is over, yet they seek
Upon the lofty peak
Of his pure mind, the roseate light that glows
O'er death's perennial snows.
Behold him! From the spirits of the blest
He speaks: he bids thee rest.

About a month after her brother's death, their faithful old friend, Crabb Robinson, went to see Mary. "She was neither violent nor unhappy," he wrote in his diary, "nor was she entirely without sense. She was, however, out of her mind, as the expression is, but she could combine ideas, though imperfectly. On my going into the room where she was sitting with Mr. Walden, she exclaimed, with great vivacity, 'Oh! here's Crabby.' She gave me her hand with great cordiality, and said, 'Now this is very kind—not merely good-natured, but very, very kind to come and see me in my affliction.' And then she ran on about the unhappy, insane family of my old friend ———. Her mind seemed to turn to subjects connected with insanity as well as to her brother's death. She spoke of Charles, of his birth, and said that he was a weakly but very pretty child."

In a year's time she was herself once more; calm, even cheerful; able, now and then, to meet old friends at the Moxons'. She refused to leave Edmonton. "He was there asleep in the old churchyard, beneath the turf near which they had stood together, and had selected for a resting-place; to this spot she used, when well, to stroll out mournfully in the evening, and to this spot she would contrive to lead any friend who came in summer evenings to drink tea, and went out with her afterwards for a walk." Out of very love she was content to be the one left alone; and found a truth in Wordsworth's beautiful saying, that "a grave is a tranquillising object; resignation, in course of time, springs up from it as naturally as the wild flowers besprinkle the turf."

Lucid intervals continued, for a few years longer, to alternate with ever-lengthening periods of darkness. That mysterious brain was not even yet wholly wrecked by the eighty years of storms that had broken over it. Even when the mind seemed gone the heart kept some of its fine instincts. She learned to bear her solitude very patiently, and was gentle and kind always. Towards 1840 her friends persuaded her to remove to Alpha Road, St. John's Wood, that she might be nearer to them. Thirteen years she survived her brother, and ten was laid in the same grave with him at Edmonton, May 28th, 1847; a scanty remnant of the old friends gathering round,—"Martin Burney refusing to be comforted."

Coleridge looked upon Lamb "as one hovering between heaven and earth, neither hoping much nor fearing anything." Or, as he himself once, with infinite sweetness, put it, "Poor Elia does not pretend to so very clear revelations of a future state of being. He stumbles about dark mountains at best; but he knows at least how to be thankful for this life, and is too thankful indeed for certain relationships lent him here, not to tremble for a possible resumption of the gift." Of Mary it may be said she hoped all things and feared nothing,—wisest, noblest attitude of the human soul towards the Unknown.

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