Thursday, April 10, 2008


Aversion from Solitude and Rural Scenes

Charles Lamb, The Londoner:
I was born, as you have heard, in a crowd. This has begot in me an entire affection for that way of life, amounting to an almost insurmountable aversion from solitude and rural scenes. This aversion was never interrupted or suspended, except for a few years in the younger part of my life, during a period in which I had set my affections upon a charming young woman. Every man, while the passion is upon him, is for a time at least addicted to groves and meadows and purling streams. During this short period of my existence, I contracted just familiarity enough with rural objects to understand tolerably well ever after the poets, when they declaim in such passionate terms in favor of a country life.

For my own part, now the fit is past, I have no hesitation in declaring, that a mob of happy faces crowding up at the pit door of Drury-lane Theatre, just at the hour of six, gives me ten thousand sincerer pleasures, than I could ever receive from all the flocks of silly sheep that ever whitened the plains of Arcadia or Epsom Downs.
Charles Lamb, Letter to Thomas Manning (Nov. 28, 1800):
I am not romance-bit about Nature. The earth and sea and sky (when all is said) is but as a house to dwell in. If the inmates be courteous, and good liquors flow like the conduits at an old coronation,—if they can talk sensibly, and feel properly, I have no need to stand staring upon the gilded looking-glass, (that strained my friend's purse-strings in the purchase,) nor his five-shilling print, over the mantel-piece, of old Nabbs, the carrier. Just as important to me (in a sense) is all the furniture of my world,—eye-pampering, but satisfies no heart. Streets, streets, streets, markets, theatres, churches, Covent Gardens, shops sparkling with pretty faces of industrious milliners, neat seamstresses, ladies cheapening, gentlemen behind counters lying, authors in the street with spectacles, lamps lit at night, pastry-cooks' and silver-smiths' shops, beautiful Quakers of Pentonville, noise of coaches, drowsy cry of mechanic watchmen at night, with bucks reeling home drunk,—if you happen to wake at midnight, cries of "Fire!" and "Stop thief!"—inns of court with their learned air, and halls, and butteries, just like Cambridge colleges,—old book-stalls, "Jeremy Taylors," "Burtons on Melancholy," and "Religio Medicis," on every stall. These are thy pleasures, O London! with thy many sins. O City, abounding in whores, for these may Keswick and her giant brood go hang!
Charles Lamb, Letter to William Wordsworth (Jan. 22, 1830):
O let no native Londoner imagine that health, and rest, and innocent occupation, interchange of converse sweet and recreative study, can make the country any thing better than altogether odious and detestable. A garden was the primitive prison till man with Promethean felicity and boldness luckily sinn'd himself out of it.
Related post: The City versus the Country.

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