Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A bad course of reading and an unfortunate choice of friends

This is from Mark Girouard's The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman. I had to share:

"Charles Lamb, the son of a Sussex baronet, decided shortly after his seventh birthday in 1823 that he was going to write the history of his guinea-pigs, Minnikin, Pin and Toby. [They] were gradually transformed into guinea-pig heroes of chivalry. As Charles Lamb grew older, his history grew and multiplied. And so, for that matter, did his guinea-pigs. Charles Lamb transformed his guinea-pigs into knights, counts and dukes, constructed elaborate coats of arms for them, and made them the heroes or villains of an epic romance of the Kingdom of Winnipeg. In the end, The History of Winnipeg from the foundation to the Present time BY ROYAL COMMAND extended to eight miniature red-and-green leather volumes.

Meanwhile the estate carpenter at Beauport set to work to construct a Camelot of battlemented hutches set in a miniature kingdom of Winnipeg in which swarms of guinea-pigs could roam safely or in comfort. Here, King Geeny and Queen Cavia, Sir Coccus Wallai, the Knight of Killinger, the Prince of Rarribu and Turknine de Newton lived, bred and died well into the 1830s. Meanwhile Charles Lamb was growing up, much loved by his family but also a puzzle to them. As his elder half-brother later wrote:
Under the influence of a bad course of reading and an unfortunate choice of friends, he became I fear almost an infidel. He never went into society and spent his time entirely in the country among his shells, insects, and guinea-pigs, of which latter collection he had several hundred."


Melody said...

Just having read that passage in Girouard, I came online to look for more information, and your blog was the first thing to pop up. Have you sought out anything more about this guy, and if so, what have you found?

Hayley said...

I live at Beauport Park and my family have lived here for over 50 years right beside what was once Beauport House- now Beauport Park hotel. This country house was Charles Lambs home and the home of his guinea pigs. If you walk through the hotel gardens you can find many remains of the "Kindom of Winnipeg" (the guinea pigs home). There are big pieces of stone from which was once the catle and the moat can be clearly seen as this was later made into a pond. You can clearly see the bridge although it is now in two! There were also some stone figures in the sunken gardens of Beauport Park hotel which have sinse been stolen - they were little nights and my family believe that they were part of the features of The Kingdom of Winnipeg! I heard that one of Charles lambs books came up on the antiques roadsow last Saturday the 4th of November 2007 but I missed it!

pluvialis said...

Hayley, that's such an amazing comment -- thank you for leaving it! I am most delighted that the remains of Winnipeg still exist. Perhaps one day I'll see if I can get to the Hotel to look at them. I am so sorry to have missed the book on Antiques Roadshow. I knew something had appeared about the subject somewhere, because people have suddenly got to my blog by searching for Winnipeg and Charles Lamb. I hope one day someone publishes these books - or one of them. They are the most delightful bit of eccentricity I've ever heard about. Bless him!