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Charles Lamb   By: (1865-1929)

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[Illustration: CHARLES LAMB AT THE AGE OF FIFTY ONE. BY HENRY MEYER. From the original painting at the India Office, reproduced by permission of the Secretary of State for India in Council.]

Bell's Miniature Series of Great Writers

CHARLES LAMB

BY

WALTER JERROLD

LONDON GEORGE BELL & SONS 1905

TABLE OF CONTENTS

THE STORY OF HIS LIFE

HIS PRINCIPAL WRITINGS:

Poetry The Drama Stories Verses Criticism Essays Letters

THE ESSAYS OF ELIA

HIS STYLE

CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF WORKS

POSTHUMOUS WORKS AND COLLECTED EDITION

BIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

CHARLES LAMB AT THE AGE OF 51. By Henry Meyer Frontispiece

CHRIST'S HOSPITAL

THE DINING HALL, CHRIST'S HOSPITAL

SKETCH OF CHARLES LAMB AT THE AGE OF 44 By G. F. Joseph, A.R.A.

HOLOGRAPH LETTER TO JOHN CLARE THE PEASANT POET, 31 August, 1822

CHARLES LAMB

THE STORY OF HIS LIFE

Charles Lamb's biography should be read at length in his essays and his letters from them we get to know not only the facts of his life but almost insensibly we get a knowledge of the man himself such as cannot be conveyed in any brief summary. He is as a friend, a loved friend, whom it seems almost sacrilegious to summarize in the compact sentences of a biographical dictionary, of whom it would be a wrong to write if the writing were to be used instead of, rather than as an introduction to, a literary self portrait, more striking it may be believed than any of the canvases in the Uffizi Gallery. When he was six and twenty Charles Lamb wrote thus in reply to an invitation from Wordsworth to visit him in Cumberland:

I have passed all my days in London ... the lighted shops of the Strand and Fleet Street; the innumerable trades, tradesmen and customers, coaches, waggons, playhouses; all the bustle and wickedness round about Covent Garden; the very women of the town; the watchmen, drunken scenes, rattles; life awake, if you awake, at all hours of the night; the impossibility of being dull in Fleet Street; the crowds, the very dirt and mud, the sun shining upon houses and pavements, the print shops, the old bookstalls, parsons cheapening books, coffee houses, steams of soups from kitchens, the pantomimes London itself a pantomime and a masquerade all these things work themselves into my mind, and feed me, without a power of satiating me. The wonder of these sights impels me into night walks about her crowded streets, and I often shed tears in the motley Strand from fulness of joy at so much life. All these emotions must be strange to you; so are your rural emotions to me. But consider, what must I have been doing all my life, not to have lent great portions of my heart with usury to such scenes?

In whimsical exaggeration Lamb sometimes wrote of his aversion from country sights and sounds, adopting that method partly perhaps for the purpose of rallying his correspondents, and partly for the purpose of accentuating his own "unrural notions." He was a Londoner of Londoners. In London he was born and educated, and in London with a few of his later years in what is now but an outer suburb he passed the fifty nine years of his life. Beyond some childish holidays in pleasant Hertfordshire, a few brief trips into the country to Coleridge at Stowey and at Keswick, to Oxford and Cambridge, and one short journey to Paris he had no personal contact with the outer world. He delighted in his devotion to London, and stands pre eminent as the Londoner in literature.

Charles Lamb was the son of John Lamb, who had left his native Lincolnshire probably from the neighbourhood of Stamford as a child, and who finally found himself attached to one Samuel Salt, a Bencher of the Inner Temple, in the capacity of "his clerk, his good servant, his dresser, his friend, his 'flapper,' his guide, stop watch, auditor, treasurer... Continue reading book >>




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