Charles Lamb … Journal Extract …
"Little Journal of My Foolish Passions"
By Charles Lamb – Artist, Poet and Romantic
In December 2006, we discovered a journal from the 1820s by a romantic British poet called Charles Lamb. Many historians agree he wrote the journal, but all were sure he’d destroyed it. Maybe they were mistaken. We believe the find contains a message for all humanity – Our Secret Inheritance.
We wanted to share this extract with you.
It’s December 1822. Charles Lamb and his fellow artists and friends have come together at Blakesware Manor to honour the life of Percy Shelley. They discuss the possible impact of the industrial revolution on nature. The idea emerged of a secret inheritance - the Haymakers Survey. Charles recorded this in a part of his journal that he called:
Book 3 – Hope Springs Eternal
The Duke mellowed. He began by saying he had seldom seen such passion for a cause and appreciated the candid nature of the discussion. He invited Rev G. North to comment on all he had observed, “Preacher, speak!”
“Sir is it not curious how millions the globe over, of all colours and creed, put so much faith in religion, yet when presented with evidence and facts presented by men of science and reason it is dissected, picked apart. I ask the question, what would any God say on the State of the nations? Would he not say,
“Humankind, think of your footsteps, about what you do. My Earth is my precious gift to you. Savour its fruits yes, but do not indulge beyond reason. Respect all nature for you, humanity, hold the key in your hands. Act today for all our tomorrows – Rush, Save My World.””
“So what do we propose we do, within reason?” The question was directed at all of us.
“Life is a jest and all things show it, I thought it once but now I know it,” I said, gripping my stone so tightly in my hand. I continued,
“There are those who care what we do with our future, such people are thee. We strive today to become an idea. Let me provide an example, a girl I met at the Ware festival before Christmas. On stage, I heard her volunteer three questions to a magician:
- Have you ever helped the poor?
- Do you have a favourite flower?
- Have you ever searched for buried treasure?
That’s it. Those were her questions.”
My stone grew warmer still, absorbing my tension.
“Charles – we are all terribly bemused – clarity please. How exactly does this help?” asked the Duke.
“Sir if I may, she suggested the questions should form part of a survey for the future, one being prepared by her father. It set me thinking. I wondered whether we should contribute some questions.” I stumbled on my words, appreciating how foolish the idea appeared at first sight. I saw the frowns and raised eyebrows.
“Do you mean like the census?” asked John Rickman.
I gripped my stone tighter still - it burned and shook in my palm.
“Possibly, I don’t know. Look I know it’s strange, but I feel we must do this. It’s beyond rational explanation! I feel this is our duty, our destiny – transcendentalists and romantics. If, as the Duke says, the wheels of industry turn inexorably, we, who are bound, need to convey a message of hope to future generations. Not through prose, essay or poetry, but something spectacular. If the world of the future struggles so as we fear it may – let us give them inspiration to find the solution! Many of us here are giants amongst dwarfs. Alas, fame is temporary, yet some questions are eternal. I say let the people of the future hear our voice, so they may find the means to give there’s. Let us present them with a list of questions to stir their imagination and encourage them to feel anew about nature. Creative questions like “Have you ever searched for buried treasure?” Perhaps we will find a way to keep these questions hidden for centuries, to let fate reveal them when the time is right to an unsuspecting world. This, my friends, would be pure genius, Art in its widest sense - what say thee?”
Silence – what had I done?
“An extraordinary affair!” The Duke was again in a tenacious mood.
“Eureka!” said Malthus.
“A secret inheritance,” suggested Captain Lewin.
“Art, let us not underestimate the power of the imagination to influence and provide a vision,” commented Westall.
“We see the world not as it is, but as we are!” so spoke Thorvaldsen.
“We desperately need to restore the love and empathy for nature lost as the affair with the city takes root, so I for one endorse Charles’ idea. It is a wild and delicious venture,” were Wordsworth’s words.
“Our voices heard from beyond the grave,” said Mary.
“Our enchanted living Earth,” spoke Emerson.
“What splendour,” said Hans Christian.
“I, too, am in. Life, universe, consciousness – all these things are beyond comprehension,” commented William Turner.
“We will astonish them all!” that was Rickman.
“Haymaker, what say you, can we achieve the impossible?” asked Wilberforce.
“Deliver the coup de grace,” pronounced Richmond, with his fist raised, “I say now is the time for action! Set free Mother Nature!”
“Hail to ‘The Haymakers Survey’,” we cried.
“Most splendid, to give our people in their hour of need the insight to know when to retreat, and to dare to do it,” championed Wellington. I had seized the day. All others consented, wishing to join in the fun. Oh Joy, oh triumph. Let the games commence. I for one have a head full of questions – where to begin? The question I most wanted to ask was, “Is she the one?”
†Transcendentalists emerged in New England – its pioneers included Ralph Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. They believed in an ideal spirit state that transcends the physical and scientific world and is realised through intuition