8 February 1800

Charles Lamb to Thomas Manning,1 Saturday [8 February 1800].2


Saturday [February 8, 1800]

     Lloyd’s letter to Miss Hays I look upon to be a most curious specimen of the apologetic style . . . How a man could write such a letter to a woman, and dream that there was in it any tendency to sooth or conciliate, from no analogous operations in my own wrong Brain can I explain. – “Mary Hays, I said that I believed that you were in love with me.” – “I had heard several times repeated, that you had loved both Godwin and Frend, moreover I had heard several times repeated, that all your first novel was but a transcript of letters sent by yourself to the latter Gentleman. I have been told this so often, that it seems to my mind like a general report. I have heard it in all places.”  “Dr Reid3 & I were laughing in the wantonness in which our sex too often indulges at the consequence of your theories, & I most wickedly &c” . . . – (In God’s name, how came he & the Dr so graciously familiar, just after he had discover’d the Dr’s complete worthlessness and wickedness? -- ) “I most wickedly exprest myself as if I thought you would in conduct demonstrate all that you proposed in speculation! I did not say this Grossly.” – (Wheugh! Wheugh! what a delicate invention, to call a woman a whore, and not be indictable in the Spiritual courts! -- ) “In the confounding medley of ordinary conversation, I have interwoven my abhorrence of your principles with a glanced contempt for your personal character.” But “in spite of all these inconsistencies I am your friend, & for the future, if we maintain our intercourse, will prove to you by conduct, how severly I condemn the past.” C Lloyd must have a damned “spite to inconsistencies,” if he can reconcile this language to the ordinary meaning of the term apology. –

       Now, Manning, seriously what do you think of this Letter? does it appear that Coleridge has added one jot to what Miss Hays might fairly represent from Lloyd’s own confession? – You doubt, whether Southey ever exprest himself so strongly on this subject. I suppose you refer to Coleridge’s account of him. I can tell you, that Southey did express himself in very harsh terms of Lloyd’s conduct, when he was last in town. He came fresh from Miss Hays, who had given him all the story, as I find she tells every body! and told Southey that she despised Lloyd. I am not sure, that Southey was not in a humour, after this representation to say all that Coleridge declared that he did say. – Particularly, if he saw this Letter, which I believe he did. – Now, do not imagine that Col. has prejudiced my mind in this at all. – the truth is, I write from my own single judgment, and when I shewed the Letter to Coleridge, he read it in silence, or only once muttered the word “indelicate.” – But I should not have been easy in concealing my true sentiment form you. My whole moral sense is up in arms against the Letter. To my apprehension, it is shockingly & nauseously indelicate, and I perceive an aggravation or multiplication of the Indelicacy, in Lloyd’s getting his sister Olivia to transcribe it.  An ignorant Quaker girl, I mean ignorant in the best sense, who ought not to know, that such a thing was possible or in rerum naturae, that a woman should court a man . . . And a dear sister, who least of all should apprehend such an omen! realizd in her o[wn] Brother. Manning, do not misunderstand me, I would not say so much to Lloyd’s own self, for this plain reason, that I shou[ld not] b[e] able to convince him, and I would not cause unnecessary pain. yet as much of this, as y[our] discretion & tenderness will give leave, you have my full leave to shew him. – But I could not let you remain ignorant of so big a part of my nature, as now rises up against this ill judged Letter, particularly as I am doubtful, whether you may not see it in a quite different light. – So much for Lloyd’s amours with Mary Hays, which would not form an unentertaining romance. From this time, they are no concern of mine. I will sum up the controversy in the words of Coleridge, all he has since said to me, “Miss Hays has acted like a fool, & Charles Lloyd not very wisely.” – [. . .]

1 Thomas Manning (1772-1840) was the son of an Anglican minister from Norfolk. He matriculated at Caius College, Cambridge, and eventually became a mathematical tutor there. His Introduction to Arithmetic and Algebra (vol. 1, 1796; vol. 2, 1798) was published by Benjamin Flower in Cambridge.  He became a close friend and correspondent of Charles Lamb. 

2 Edwin W. Marrs, ed., The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, 3 vols (Cornell: Cornell UP, 1975-78), 1.181-82; Brooks, Correspondence 326-27.

3 Dr. John Reid, brother of Mary Reid (see Biographical Index).