I went to the beach last weekend and brought with my a selected poems and prose of A.C. Swinburne (who, it seems, is only ever read in England anymore, which is too bad, because he’s got some great gloomy, decadent landscapes in his poetry and kind of reads like a sexier, more comprehensible version of Robert Browning). I’d also been reading an old book, tattered book that is something like the collected writings of Charles Lamb, volume II. It’s mostly his letters to folks like Coleridge and Southey and others. He’s not really very famous.
But Swinburne wrote and essay about William Blake and said that Lamb was the only contemporary that understood Blake’s greatness. Lamb, wrote Swinburne, was the best predictor and judge of quality in the first few decades of the nineteenth century. Maybe I underestimated Lamb’s value?