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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Charles Lamb (1775–1834)

A Bad Cold

From “Letter to Bernard Barton”

DO you know what it is to succumb under an insurmountable day-mare, an indisposition to do anything or to be anything; a total deadness and distaste; a suspension of vitality; an indifference to locality; a numb, soporifical good-for-nothingness; an ossification all over; an oyster-like insensibility to the passing events; a mind-stupor; a brawny defiance to the needles of a thrusting-in conscience? Did you ever have a very bad cold, with a total irresolution to submit to water-gruel processes? This has been for many weeks my lot, and my excuse; my fingers drag heavily over this paper, and to my thinking it is three-and-twenty furlongs from here to the end of this demi-sheet. I have not a thing to say; nothing is of more importance than another; I am flatter than a denial or a pancake; emptier than Judge ——’s wig when the head is in it; duller than a country stage when the actors are off it; a cipher, an 0! I acknowledge life at all only by an occasional convulsional cough and a permanent phlegmatic pain in the chest. I am weary of the world; life is weary of me. My day has gone into twilight, and I don’t think it worth the expense of candles. My wick has a thief in it, but I can’t muster courage to snuff it out. I inhale suffocation; I can’t distinguish veal from mutton; nothing interests me; ’tis twelve o’clock, and Thirtell is just now coming out upon the New Drop, Jack Ketch alertly tucking up his greasy sleeves to do the last office of mortality, yet cannot I elicit a groan or a moral reflection. If you told me the world will be at an end to-morrow, I should just say, “Will it?” I have not volition enough left to dot my i’s, much less to comb my eyebrows; my eyes are set in my head; my brains are gone out to see a poor relation in Moorfields, and they did not say when they’d come back again; my skull is a Grub Street attic to let. Did you ever have an obstinate cold, a six or seven weeks’ unremitting chill and suspension of hope, fear, conscience, and everything? Yet do I try all I can to cure it; I try wine, and spirit’s, and smoking, and snuff, in unsparing quantities; but they all only seem to make me worse instead of better. I sleep in a damp room, but it does me no good; I come home late o’ nights, but do not find any visible amendment. Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?