Posted by: cochinblogger | July 23, 2012

Samuel Butler and Charles Lamb: Two Anecdotes

In the excellent anthology The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose by Frank Muir (The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose), I came across a couple of memorable anecdotes concerning Charles Lamb and Samuel Butler, respectively.

There is a story that when Charles Lamb was very young he was taken by his sister for a walk through a cemetery. Even at that age he read everything he could find and he insisted on stopping at every tombstone and reading the inscriptions in praise of the dear departed. On the way out, he said to his sister, “Mary, where are all the naughty people buried?”

Whether the story is true or not does not really matter because like most good anecdotes it illuminates the subject, and suggests the originality of mind, element of common sense, and the powers of observation that made Charles Lamb’s humorous prose so particular.

Samuel Butler and his lady friend, Miss Savage, disliked Thomas Carlyle and his wife, whose union was sometimes prickly. In one of her letters, Miss Swift took a dig at their marriage. This was Samuel Butler’s response:

Dear Miss Savage,

… Yes, it was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four.

Believe me, Yours very truly, S. Butler

Also see The Wit of Adityanath Jha

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