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Thứ Tư, 25 tháng 3, 2015

Letter to William Wordsworth* from Charles Lamb, date 30th January 1801, Letter LXXXV: (Town Versus Country)

                                                   Charles Lamb** (1775-1834)

I ought before this to have replied to your very kind invitation into Cumberland. With you and your sister I could gang anywhere; but I am afraid whether I shall ever be able to afford so desperate a journey. Separate from the pleasure of your company, I don't much care if I never see a mountain in my life. I have passed all my days in London, until I have formed as many and intense local attachments as any of you mountaineers can have done with dead Nature. The lighted shops of the Strand and Fleet Street; the innumerable trades, tradesmen, and customers, coaches, wagons, playhouses; all the bustle and wickedness round about Covent Garden; the very women of the Town; the watchmen, drunken scenes, rattles; life awake, if you awake, at all hours of the night; the impossibility of being dull in Fleet Street; the crowds, the very dirt and mud, the sun shining upon houses and pavements, the print shops, the old bookstalls, parsons cheapening books, coffee-houses, steams of soups from kitchens, the pantomimes - London itself a pantomime and a masquerade - all these things work themselves into my mind, and feed me, without a power of satiating me. The wonder of these sights impels me into night-walks about her crowded streets, and I often shed tears in the motley Strand from fullness of joy at so much life. All these emotions must be strange to you; so are your rural emotions to me.  But consider, what must I have been doing all my life, not to have lent great portions of my heart with usury to such scenes?

My attachments are all local, purely local. I have no passion (or have had none since I was in love, and then it was the spurious engendering of poetry and books) for groves and valleys. The rooms where I was born, the furniture which has been before my eyes all my life, a book-case which has followed me about like a faithful dog (only exceeding him in knowledge), wherever I have moved myself, old chairs, old tables, streets, squares, where I have sunned myself, my old school - these are my mistresses. Have I not enough, without your mountains? I do not envy you. I should pity you, did I not know that the mind will make friends of anything. Your sun, and moon, and skies, and hills, and lakes, affect me no more, or scarcely come to me in more venerable characters, than as a gilded room with tapestry and tapers, where I might live with handsome visible objects. I consider the clouds above me but as a roof beautifully painted, but unable to satisfy the mind: and at last, like the pictures of the apartment of a connoisseur, unable to afford him any longer a pleasure. So fading upon me, from disuse, have been the beauties of nature, as they have been confoundedly called ; so ever fresh, and green and warm are all the inventions of men, and assemblies of men in this great city. I should certainly have laughed with dear Joanna.***
Give my kindest love, and my sister's, to D and yourself; and a kiss from me to little Barbara Lethwaite. Thank you for liking my play.

Foot notes :
*- Letter to William Wordsworth, Letter LXXXV, date 30TH January 1801: Charles Lamb wrote this letter in response to William Wordsworth’s “invitation to Cumberland”, Charles Lamb gives something much more than a simple excuse.
*-*- Charles Lamb was born in London on 10th February 1775. He was an English poet and essayist. He found his inspiration and solace in the bustle and hectic life of the city. After 33 years of works as a clerk for the East India Company (1792-1825), he retired, upon retirement he spent time in his garden and relaxing.
In 1818, he published his collected verse and prose. He wrote his best known works as the series of Essays: -Essays of Elia (1823), The Last Essays of Elia (1833). He wrote many letters to his friends such as William Wordsworth, Coleridge, Percy Shelley etc..He wrote many works with his sister Mary (1764-1847) such as Tales from Shakespeare (1807), and many works for children.
Charles Lamb died in Edmonton, a suburb of London on 27th December 1834 at the age of 59. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was his close friend.
*-*-*- Joanna Hutchinson (1780 – 1843) was W. Wordsworth’s youngest sister-in-law. Charles Lamb referred to the story of William Wordsworth: one afternoon, when he was walking with Joanna about the Lake District, he became fascinated by the beauty of nature, and Joanna burst out laughing him.