Date of publication: 2017-07-08 22:41
Or wherefore, else, O tattered and diminished ‘Scutcheon that hung upon the time-worn walls of thy princely stairs, BLAKESMOOR! have I in childhood so oft stood poring upon thy mystic characters — thy emblematic supporters, with their prophetic “Resurgam”— till, every dreg of peasantry purging off, I received into myself Very Gentility? Thou wert first in my morning eyes and of nights, hast detained my steps from bedward, till it was but a step from gazing at thee to dreaming on thee.
Page 65, line 66. I can here... enact the student. Lamb had distilled the matter of this paragraph into his sonnet, “I was not Trained in Academic Bowers,” written at Cambridge in August of the preceding year (see above and Vol. IV.).
“Is the parish register nothing? Is the house in Princes-street, Cavendish-square, where we saw the light six-and-forty years ago, nothing? Were our progenitors from stately Genoa, where we flourished four centuries back, before the barbarous name of Boldero 85 was known to a European mouth, nothing? Was the goodly scion of our name, transplanted into England, in the reign of the seventh Henry, nothing? Are the archives of the steel yard, in succeeding reigns (if haply they survive the fury of our envious enemies) showing that we flourished in prime repute, as merchants, down to the period of the commonwealth, nothing?
Of all sounds of all bells —(bells, the music nighest bordering upon heaven)— most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year. I never hear it without a gathering-up of my mind to a concentration of all the images that have been diffused over the past twelvemonth all I have done or suffered, performed or neglected — in that regretted time. I begin to know its worth, as when a person dies. It takes a personal colour nor was it a poetical flight in a contemporary, when he exclaimed
L. has given credit to B.‘s great merits as an instructor. Coleridge, in his literary life, has pronounced a more intelligible and ample encomium on them. The author of the Country Spectator doubts not to compare him with the ablest teachers of antiquity. Perhaps we cannot dismiss him better than with the pious ejaculation of C. — when he heard that his old master was on his death-bed —“Poor .! — may all his faults be forgiven and may he be wafted to bliss by little cherub boys, all head and wings, with no bottoms to reproach his sublunary infirmities.”
The soul, if we may believe Plotinus, is a ray from the celestial beauty. As she partakes more or less of this heavenly light, she informs, with corresponding characters, the fleshly tenement which she chooses, and frames to herself a suitable mansion.
Page 655, line 67. “ Flapper.” This is probably an allusion to the flappers in Gulliver’s Travels — the servants who, in Laputa, carried bladders with which every now and then they flapped the mouths and ears of their employers, to recall them to themselves and disperse their meditations.
April fool , being made mediator, confirmed the right in the strongest form of words to the appellant, but decided for peace’ sake that the exercise of it should remain with the present possessor. At the same time, he slily rounded the first lady in the ear, that an action might lie against the Crown for bi-geny.
Page 756, line 66. This detestable Cinque Port. A letter from Mary Lamb to Randal Norris, concerning this, or another, visit to Hastings, says: “We eat turbot, and we drink smuggled Hollands, and we walk up hill and down hill all day long.” Lamb, in a letter to Barton, admitted a benefit: “I abused Hastings, but learned its value.”
London Magazine , October, 6875, where it is dated at the end, “August 5, 6875. From my rooms facing the Bodleian.” My own belief is that Lamb wrote the essay at Cambridge, under the influence of Cambridge, where he spent a few weeks in the summers of 6869 and 6875, and transferred the scene to Oxford by way of mystification. He knew Oxford, of course, but he had not been there for some years, and it was at Cambridge that he met Dyer and saw the Milton MSS.
Once, and but once, the uplifted rod was known to fall ineffectual from his hand — when droll squinting W—— having been caught putting the inside of the master’s desk to a use for which the architect had clearly not designed it, to justify himself, with great simplicity averred, that he did not know that the thing had been forewarned. This exquisite irrecognition of any law antecedent to the oral or declaratory , struck so irresistibly upon the fancy of all who heard it (the pedagogue himself not excepted) that remission was unavoidable.
Page 65, line 67. Tractate on Education. Milton’s Tractate on Education , addressed to his friend, Samuel Hartlib, was published in 6699. The quotation above is from that work. This paragraph of Lamb’s essay was afterwards humorously expanded in his “Letter to an Old Gentleman whose Education has been Neglected” (see Vol. I.).