1838 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Lamb

Amelia Opie to Mary Russell Mitford, 28 November 1838; in L'Estrange, Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford (1882) 260-61.



What an interesting, but queer, unsatisfactory book is Charles Lamb's Life and Letters, by Sergeant Talfourd! How imperfect must that biography be, however well written, in which the writer is forced, by delicacy and consideration for the feelings of the living, to conceal the awful marking event which must have influenced the whole life and character of his hero! Thou art aware, probably, that the sister was insane, and the frequent inmate of a madhouse, but she had lucid intervals, and then returned home. In one of these, in Charles Lamb's presence, she, while at dinner, stabbed her mother, and she died on the spot! This fact I had from Coleridge himself! Nor was there ever a more miserable, wretched pair than this poor brother and sister. I mean a more wretched pair of innocent sufferers. But in the life there is no allusion to these facts.

It is, however, evident that the poor dear man was not right in his mind. An affecting vein of madness went, I think, through all he wrote and said — but the letters are worth reading.