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

Charles Lamb (1775–1834)

Sayings and Anecdotes

LAMB once said to a brother whist-player, whose hands were none of the cleanest, “If dirt was trumps, what a hand you’d have.”

The greatest pleasure I know, is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident.

One cannot bear to pay for articles he used to get for nothing. When Adam laid out his first penny upon nonpareils at some stall in Mesopotamia, I think it went hard with him, reflecting upon his own goodly orchard, where he had so many for nothing.

A widow friend of Lamb, having opened a preparatory school for children, at Camden Town, said to him, “I live so far from town I must have a sign, I think you call it, to show that I teach children.” “Well,” he replied, “you can have nothing better than The Murder of the Innocents.”

A farmer, Charles Lamb’s chance companion in a coach, kept boring him to death with questions as to the state of the crops. At length he put a poser, “And pray, sir, how go turnips?” “Why, that, sir,” stammered out Lamb, “will depend upon the boiled legs of mutton.”

While Lamb was clerk at the India House he used his own pleasure in observing the hours of attendance. The other officials grumbled, and one of the heads of the establishment undertook to lecture the erring Elia. “Mr. Lamb, you come very late every morning.” “I do, sir,” said Lamb, “but I make up for it by going away very early every afternoon.”

“Charles,” said Coleridge, one day, to Lamb, “did you ever hear me preach?” “I never heard you do anything else,” said Lamb.

On a cold and drizzling day a villainous-looking mendicant approached Lamb in the street with an appealing look and outstretched hand. “I have seen better days,” said the beggar, in a whining tone. “So have I,” said Lamb, shrugging his shoulders, and buttoning up his coat. “This is a very bad day, indeed.”

Lamb was reserved among strangers. A friend, about to introduce him to a circle of new faces, said, “Now will you promise, Lamb, not to be as sheepish as usual?” Charles replied, with a rustic air, “I wool.”

A pun is a noble thing per se. It is a sole digest of reflection; it is entire; it fills the mind; it is as perfect as a sonnet—better. It limps ashamed in the train and retinue of humour; it knows it should have an establishment of its own.

Some one was mentioning in Lamb’s presence the coldheartedness of the Duke of Cumberland, in restraining the duchess in rushing up to the embrace of her son, whom she had not seen for a considerable time, and insisting on her receiving him in state. “How horribly cold it was,” said the narrator. “Yes,” said Lamb, in his stuttering way, “but you know he is the Duke of Cu-cum-ber-land.”

Positively, the best thing a man can have to do is nothing, and, next to that, perhaps, good works.

A mixture of brandy and water spoils two good things.