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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Charles Lamb

  • [An English essayist; born in London, February, 1775; entered the service of the East-India Company, 1792; retired, 1825; published “Essays of Elia,” 1830; died 1834.]
  • It is better, at any rate, than always aiming at dulness.

  • When some one said to him, “You are always aiming at wit.”
  • On Crabb Robinson’s telling him, soon after being called to the bar, that he had a case in the King’s Bench, Lamb replied, “I suppose you addressed Milton’s line to it: ‘Thou first best cause, least understood.’” The story is probably incorrectly told, as the line is from Pope’s “Universal Prayer:”—
  • “Thou Great First Cause, least understood.”
  • An old lady complained that Lamb did not seem to be hearing what she was saying. “I cannot say that I am,” was his answer: “but perhaps the lady on the other side of me is; for it goes in at one ear, and out of the other.”
  • If dirt were trumps, what a hand you would hold!

  • To a slovenly whist-player.
  • When told that eight persons had dined together on the top of the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, he remarked, “They must have been very sharp set!”
  • When reminded by a superior at India House that he came very late to the office, Lamb replied with the most innocent manner in the world, “Yes, sir; but you must remember that I go away early.”
  • A gentleman looked into a crowded coach with the question, “All full inside?” to which Lamb replied, “I don’t know how it may be with the other passengers, but that last piece of oyster-pie did the business for me!”
  • The first water-cure was the flood, and it killed more than it cured.

  • He said of mixing brandy and water, “It spoils two good things.”
  • When Wordsworth said, if he had a mind, he could write like Shakespeare, Lamb suggested, “It is only the mind which is wanting.”
  • “Charles Lamb’s sayings,” said Hazlitt, “are generally like women’s letters,—all the pith is in the postscript.”