Charles Lamb

William Gifford to Robert Southey, 13 February 1812; Smiles, A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 1:200-01.

February 13th, 1812.


I break off here to say that I have this moment received your last letter to Murray. It has grieved and shocked me beyond expression; but, my dear friend, I am innocent so far as the intent goes. I call God to witness that in the whole course of my life I never heard one syllable of Mr. Lamb or his family. I knew not that he ever had a sister, or that he had parents living, or that he or any person connected with him had ever manifested the slightest tendency to insanity. In a word, I declare to you in the most solemn manner that all I ever knew or ever heard of Mr. Lamb was merely his name. Had I been aware of one of the circumstances which you mention, I would have lost my right arm sooner than have written what I have. The truth is, that I was shocked at seeing him compare the sufferings and death of a person who just continues to dance after the death of his lover is announced (for this is all his merit) to the pangs of Mount Calvary; and not choosing to attribute it to folly, because I reserved that charge for Weber, I unhappily in the present case ascribed it to madness, for which I pray God to forgive me, since the blow has fallen heavily when I really thought it would not be felt. I considered Lamb as a thoughtless scribbler, who, in circumstances of ease, amused himself by writing on any subject. Why I thought so, I cannot tell, but it was the opinion I formed to myself, for I now regret to say I never made any inquiry upon the subject; nor by any accident in the whole course of my life did I hear him mentioned beyond the name.

I remain, my dear Sir,

Yours most sincerely,