Saint Paul’s is one of the few buildings that Charles Lamb would recognise in the City of London today. Here he is, on this day in 1802, writing to Thomas Manning, a young friend newly arrived on the continent, which Lamb himself had never visited and never expected to.
“I must be told if any building in Paris is at all comparable to St. Paul’s, which, contrary to the usual mode of that part of our nature called admiration, I have looked up to with unfading wonder every morning at ten o’clock, ever since it has lain in my way to business. At noon I casually glance upon it, being hungry; and hunger has not much taste for the fine arts.
Is any night-walk comparable to a walk from St. Paul’s to Charing Cross, for lighting and paving, crowds going and coming without respite, the rattle of coaches and the cheerfulness of shops? Have you seen a man guillotined yet? is it as good as hanging? are the women all painted, and the men all monkeys? or are there not a few that look like rational of both sexes? Are you and the First Consul thick?
All this expense of ink I may fairly put you to, as your letters will not be solely for my proper pleasure, but are to serve as memoranda and notices, helps for short memory, a kind of Rumfordising* recollection, for yourself on your return. Your letter was just what a letter should be, crammed and very funny. Every part of it pleased me till you came to Paris; and your damn’d philosophical indolence or indifference stung me. You cannot stir from your rooms till you know the language! What the devil!—are men nothing but word-trumpets? are men all tongue and ear? have these creatures, that you and I profess to know something about, no faces, gestures, gabble:”
*Count Rumford, Sir Benjamin Thompson, was an American born English scientist, engineer, town planner and inventor.
From The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb, 1796-1820″ ed. E.V. Lucas)
Let us pray for a full share of that part of our nature called admiration, and full bellies for all school children that they may have a taste for all aspects of learning.
Mary’s Meals, a simple solution to world hunger