Charles Lamb 

and His Hertfordshire

Reginald L Hine

J M Dent, London, 1949


Reprinted by Greenwood press in 1973


Charles Lamb in 1825

To those who worship Elia this side of idolatry, Hertfordshire is hallowed ground, and those who worship the other side of idolatry would hesitate to speak of the 'pretty pastoral delights,' 'the green plains of pleasant Hertfordshire,' save to such as are natives or intimates or devotees. 'How shall we tell them in a stranger's ear?'

Not even to Southey was Lamb willing to open up this 'corner of my mind,' these' darling thoughts of my own.' 'There are feelings,' he says, 'which refuse to be translated, sulky aborigines which will not be naturalized in another soil. Of this nature are old family faces and scenes of infancy.'

When the quill penned that last phrase, Lamb was thinking of his sacred Blakesware; and it was by grand-maternal right in that now-vanished mansion that he claimed to be a 'native' of Hertfordshire. In matter of fact he belongs to London. In 'matter of lie,' as he pleasantly terms it, he belongs to Hertfordshire. It was a snow-white lie, and not even Charles should have stuttered over it. After all, he was bred in the shire if not born in it. It became his second home, and, next to London, was first in his thoughts, and paramount in his affections. Let no one put aside Lamb's claim of Hertfordshire domicile as a pretty fiction. There is evidence, legal and literary, by which his title can be supported if not established. A genealogist would cite deep family roots in its soil, 'cousins sprinkled over Hertfordshire,' a 'houseful of cousins near Wheathampstead.' The boy's earliest memories, back to the days when 'the maternal milk was hardly dry upon his lips,' clustered around Mackery End or his grandmother's knees at Blakesware. When Mary Feild died in 1792, she was laid to earth in God's acre at Widford and, no less, in the consecrated plot of her grandson's heart. It was to a 'fair-haired maid' at Blenheims near Blakesware that Charles Lamb lost his heart, and, though the course of true love did never yet run smooth, and though Ann Simmons, spinster of Widford parish, became the spouse of Mr. Bartram, silversmith of Prince's Street, Leicester Square, London, her' dream children, , begotten of the suitor she was forced to reject, were all born in Hertfordshire. You will not find them in any register of baptisms, because dream children are not baptized. You will not find them in any register of burials because they live for ever.

Opening to the chapter My Native Field of Hertfordshire



  1. My Native Fields of Hertfordshire

  2. Hertford

  3. Ware

  4. Puckeridge

  5. Button Snap

  6. Hitchin

  7. Mackery End

  8. Redbourn

  9. Amwell

  10. Blakesware

  11. The Plumers of Blakesware

  12. Elia's 'Fine Old Whig'

  13. Widford


A delightful book, with some interesting plates, plus many excellent line drawings - including views by F L Grigg and Edmund H. New. If your ancestor lived in one of the places mentioned you will find some different angles here compared with what you might find in a conventional local history book

For another brief extract see Button Snap

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November 2012   Page Created
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