Read LXIV.  TO WORDSWORTH. of The Best Letters of Charles Lamb, free online book, by Charles Lamb, on

May, 1819.

Dear Wordsworth. ­I received a copy of “Peter Bell” a week ago, and I hope the author will not be offended if I say I do not much relish it.  The humor, if it is meant for humor, is forced; and then the price, ­sixpence would have been dear for it.  Mind, I do not mean your “Peter Bell,” but a “Peter Bell,” which preceded it about a week, and is in every bookseller’s shop-window in London, the type and paper nothing differing from the true one, the preface signed W. W., and the supplementary preface quoting as the author’s words an extract from the supplementary preface to the “Lyrical Ballads.”  Is there no law against these rascals?  I would have this Lambert Simnel whipped at the cart’s tail.  Who started the spurious “P.B.”  I have not heard.  I should guess, one of the sneering brothers, the vile Smiths; but I have heard no name mentioned.  “Peter Bell” (not the mock one) is excellent, ­for its matter, I mean.  I cannot say the style of it quite satisfies me.  It is too lyrical.  The auditors, to whom it is feigned to be told, do not arride me.  I had rather it had been told me, the reader, at once.  “Hart-leap Well” is the tale for me; in matter as good as this, in manner infinitely before it, in my poor judgment.  Why did you not add “The Wagoner”?  Have I thanked you, though, yet for “Peter Bell”?  I would not not have it for a good deal of money.  Coleridge is very foolish to scribble about books.

Neither his tongue nor fingers are very retentive.  But I shall not say anything to him about it.  He would only begin a very long story with a very long face, and I see him far too seldom to tease him with affairs of business or conscience when I do see him.  He never comes near our house, and when we go to see him he is generally writing or thinking; he is writing in his study till the dinner comes, and that is scarce over before the stage summons us away.  The mock “P.B.” had only this effect on me, that after twice reading it over in hopes to find something diverting in it, I reached your two books off the shelf, and set into a steady reading of them, till I had nearly finished both before I went to bed, ­the two of your last edition, of course, I mean, And in the morning I awoke determined to take down the “Excursion.”  I wish the scoundrel imitator could know this.  But why waste a wish on him?  I do not believe that paddling about with a stick in a pond, and fishing up a dead author, whom his intolerable wrongs had driven to that deed of desperation, would turn the heart of one of these obtuse literary BELLS.  There is no Cock for such Peters, damn ’em!  I am glad this aspiration came upon the red-ink line. It is more of a bloody curse.  I have delivered over your other presents to Alsager and G. Dyer, A., I am sure, will value it and be proud of the hand from which it came.  To G.D. a poem is a poem, ­his own as good as anybody’s, and, God bless him! anybody’s as good as his own; for I do not think he has the most distant guess of the possibility of one poem being better than another.  The gods, by denying him the very faculty itself of discrimination, have effectually cut off every seed of envy in his bosom.  But with envy they excited curiosity also; and if you wish the copy again, which you destined for him, I think I shall be able to find it again for you on his third shelf, where he stuffs his presentation copies, uncut, in shape and matter resembling a lump of dry dust; but on carefully removing that stratum, a thing like a pamphlet will emerge.  I have tried this with fifty different poetical works that have been given G.D. in return for as many of his own performances; and I confess I never had any scruple in taking my own again, wherever I found it, shaking the adherences off; and by this means one copy of ‘my works’ served for G.D., ­and, with a little dusting, was made over to my good friend Dr. Geddes, who little thought whose leavings he was taking when he made me that graceful bow.  By the way, the Doctor is the only one of my acquaintance who bows gracefully, ­my town acquaintance, I mean.  How do you like my way of writing with two inks?  I think it is pretty and motley.  Suppose Mrs. W, adopts it, the next time she holds the pen for you.  My dinner waits.  I have no time to indulge any longer in these laborious curiosities.  God bless you, and cause to thrive and burgeon whatsoever you write, and fear no inks of miserable poetasters.

Yours truly,


Mary’s love.