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“ Yet, when the loved have from our pathway vanished,
What potent magic can their smiles restore !
They passed in darkness—they will come no more.
No light renewed breaks on their lowly bed !" We will conclude our specimens of Mr. Clark's lyrics with one of the most finished and elegant poems in the language. We cannot call to mind any thing in the entire range of our reading, more strikingly beautiful and touching than the Contrast. It does not contain a faulty line; but from beginning to end maintains unbroken, its strain of deep and solcmn melody, its full heart-breathing tone of pensive tenderness. No living poet could surpass—few could equal it.
“It was the morning of a day in spring
The sun looked gladness from the eastern sky;
And many a sunny glade and flowery scene
Stole on the charméd ear with such delight
The night-dews lay in the half opend flower,
Glorious and bright, and changing like a dream,
Spring may not linger in her robes of gree
“I came again. 'Twas Autumn's stormy hour
The wild winds murmured in the faded wood;
Where, straying lonely, as with steps of fear,
It bore the red leaves of the shaken tree-
Weak, changing like the flowers in Autumn's clime,
Which life holds up to the observant eye:
While age to death moves peacefully along,
Mr. Clark is, we understand, a young man.
His efforts exhibit a regular and progressive increase of power; regulated by a taste so refined, they must sooner or later win him a high standing, and a lasting reputation. He is obviously a poet in his temperament, and has a heart attuned to all that is exalted and beautiful in nature or life. His mind is classic and harmonious in its structure; his fancy lively and poetical; and his style of expression peculiarly original and felicitous. The marks of care and polish are apparent in most of his lyrics; yet they seem to burst from a copious mind, and are characterized by a gushing fullness of thought and feeling. With such an intellect, chastened by such a taste, we will not presume to say what elevation he may not attain in that walk of literature which he has already done so much to adorn.
ART. X.- The Letters of Charles Lamb, --with a Sketch of
his Life. By Thomas Noon TALFOURD—one of his Ex
ecutors. In two volumes. London. The Works of Charles Lamb; to which are affixed his Let
ters, and a Sketch of his Life. By T. N. TALFOURD. 2 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers.
“Let these describe the undescribable," said Byron, in allusion to the connoisseurs who might attempt, after that stanza in Childe Harold, to paint the graceful bend or the voluptuous attitude of the Venus of Medicis ;--and his lordship thought, no doubt, that the phrase embraced a paradox in every application. He was mistaken, although he spoke of the tangible and the visible; and he little dreamed, when he wrote, we fancy, that One would come in his own day, to belie his evident idea of an impossibility. But Charles Lamb, without the skill of the brush or the chisel, has depicted that which no writer to our knowledge ever painted. He has coloured the minutest shades of thought; and, blending the powers of an anatomist and a sculptor together, he has dissected the very heart of an emotion,--traced out the ligaments of an impulse, so to speak; given to fancy its most exuberant latitude ; and, with that inner eye which discerns the merest probability of imagination, allowed to motive its excuse, and traced actions to their spring ; actions, grave, whimsical, noble; consolatory of disgrace, descriptive of affection,-exponents of joy or sorrow.
That this peculiar aptitude of Lamb was the effect of true genius, working out its ends, cannot be disputed ; and it is from this cause that his life and writings have a marked and distinctive character. The common interest of biography, in Talfourd's sketch of the former, is in a measure lost; the inci. dents of his career were meagre in themselves,-confined to a circumscribed and unvarying round, not unlike the journeying “from the blue bed to the brown," with which poor Goldsmith has made us acquainted. A man of peaceful and modest habits, with no passion for the glance of the vulgar eye, -no ear for the pointless plaudits of the uninitiated, he passed his days mainly, not in journeyings about, but to and from, as he felicitously intimates ; not with the 'portance in the travel's history of the tourist, but at the “desk's dull wood,” in the India House, or in poring over the dim old volumes, smelling of yore, and rich in the provocation of thoughts—which in him, were exuberant, and needing nothing, but the touch of some ancient enchanter, to give them life and light.
It were useless to say here-now that his praise in that regard has become so universal-how well, yet how briefly, Mr. TalVOL. XXII.-NO. 44.
fourd has performed the task assigned him. He has partaken of the spirit of his subject, in every thing that has been written, concerning bim. Their tastes, it is apparent, were not dissimilar: they were long social associates; and we could name more than one friend, mentioned in the letters of Lamb, who has conveyed to us, personally or otherwise, the genial glow of that concise and inclusive manner of thought, for which he was so distinguished. With respect to the subject of his biography, Mr. Talfourd has been content to let his mere words form his eulogy. A better device was impossible. Lamb, in truth, though without the slightest ostentation, was a self-expositor in every sentence he penned; but then so catholic and general were they all, that the reader of taste and feeling would willingly adopt and recognize them as his own. He broke down that veil which hangs betwixt the public and private socialities of life. He wished, at least in imagination, to domesticate the “gentle public” with himself and his friends. In this, doubtless, though with the most cordial intentions, he sometimes, (not contemplating his individual demise, or the disposition of epistolary" contingent remainders,”) made his friends fearful of unwonted fame. Such a possibility is expressly mentioned in his executor's preface. “The recentness of the period of some of the letters," he writes, “has rendered it necessary to omit many portions of them in which the humour and beauty are interwoven with personal references, which, although wholly free from any thing that, rightly understood, could give pain to any human being, touch on subjects too sacred for public exposure.” It is conjectured that even some of the personal allusions which have been retained, in the various correspondence, assisting in biographical illustration, may seem perhaps too free to a stranger; but the declaration is made, that they have only been retained in cases wherein the editor was well assured the parties would be rather gratified than displeased at seeing their naines connected in life-like association with one so dear to their memories.” The reader, judging thus how much he may have lost, is consoled with the promise of future gain. “Many letters yet remaining unpublished,” observes the biographer," which will further illustrate the character of Lamb, but which must be reserved for a future time, when the editor hopes to do more justice to his own sense of the genius and the excellences of his friend, than it has been possible to accomplish in these volumes.”
The felicitous brevity with which the author of " Ion" has summed up the chiefest incidents in the life of his departed friend, exhibits a power of which any biographer might be proud. He is not, like Boswell, and sundry other minute writers of the personal history of others, ever on the close hunt for trifling circumstances in the early life of his subject, that may have had an influence in the formation of his character, or in pointing the bent of his tastes. What he has to say in this respect flows in naturally, and with no studied effort at special precision,-such as the date of a day when such a thing may have been said, the persons present on such and such an occasion, together with the ten thousand items with which unmerciful biographers are apt to afflict the patient, "general reader." There are no painful searchings of parish registers, or closet conferences with antiquated crones, to ascertain whether he first saw the light of a morning or an afternoon, whether on Thursday, or "O' Wednesday.” Proceeding from his birthhour on the 18th of February, 1799, in Crown Office Row, Inner Temple, London, he follows him at the age of seven years to Christ's Hospital, where the embryo essayist pursued his classic studies, and shaped the course of his increasing powers, until November, 1789. After this period, he was employed in the South Sea House, under his brother John—but in 1792, obtained an appointment in the accountant's office of the East India Company.
Lamb was the school-fellow of Coleridge, and to the intimacy ultimately ensuing between them to the ardent communion of their friendship, may, perhaps, be attributed, more than to any other cause, that rare mixture of the philosophical, the pathetic, the fanciful, and the whimsical, for which Lamb had indeed a strong mental aptitude, but which without the encouraging plaudits and intercourse of Coleridge, he might never have exhibited. The spirit that had created the wild and wondrous tale of the “ Ancient Mariner,” and that which gave rise to the myriad thoughts of Elia, were not dissimilar ;--there was an affinity betwixt them,-a union in partition,--which rendered them most fit for each other,-though Lamb's was the gentler and more venerative spirit. Coleridge, indeed, was his Gamaliel,--and in his reminiscences, he deemed it a kind of hononr to have sprung as it were, from juvenescence to the evening of age, at his feet. Often did they meet, year in and out, at a haunt in the neighbourhood of Smithfield, y’clept the “Cat and Salutation,"--curious name! How many hours of true wisdom were passed in that place, the volumes under notice amply show.
The association with Coleridge, of course, aside from the attractions of his own merit, was peculiarly valuable to his admiring disciple. With Southey and Wordsworth, as with many others, whose names are deservedly high in the annals of modern English literature, he maintained a cordial and friendly intercourse,—if not in person, at least by the substitution of that epistolary dialect which gives the office of the lip to the