Friday, December 27, 2013

`I Am Made Up of Queer Points'

A sad day at the bottom of the year on the bookish calendar. Charles Lamb died on this date, Dec. 27, in 1834, at age fifty-nine. In a letter  to William Wordsworth (parenthetically, the Lamb/Wordsworth friendship strikes me as among the least likely in literary history. Consider the convergence of the most amusing writer in the language with a poet congenitally incapable of mirth) on March 20, 1822, Lamb writes: 

“Common natures do not suffice me. Good people, as they are called, won't serve; I want individuals. I am made up of queer points, and I want so many answering needles.” 

Straight autobiography, of course, but also a distillation of true friendship. This odd, stammering, gin-soaked antiquarian bachelor understood non-consanguineous kinship. The letter begins with a death knell, a tally of the recent dead:Every departure destroys a class of sympathies.” Lamb understands grief and its insidious nature, and manages to find the comic in it: 

“The going-away of friends does not make the remainder more precious. It takes so much from them, as there was a common link. A, B, and C make a party. A dies. B not only loses A, but all A's part in C. C loses A's part in B, and so the alphabet sickens by subtraction of interchangeables.”

1 comment:

Claus Emmeche said...

Thanks for bringing this.
Lewis 1988, p. 61, cites this but gives no reference except
mentioning that it is from Lamb
(Lewis, C. S. 1988: The Four Loves. Orlando, fl: Harcourt)
and most friendship scholars only qoute the place in Lewis.