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Biography, Literary works and Style
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Charles Lamb has been acclaimed by common consent as the Prince among
English essayist. Charles Lamb was an important English poet and literary critic
of Welsh origin. He was born in London on February 10th 1775. As an expert of
the Shakespearean period as well as an author of talent, Lamb would come to be
considered one of the most significant literary critics of his time. Moreover,
Lamb would be celebrated for his simple, yet not simplistic, personal reflections on
daily life, which would always be supplemented with a distinctive sense of both
humor and tragedy. Lambs two most famous works were to be Essays of Elia,
and, Tales from Shakespeare, in fact a childrens book. He would actually write
the latter in collaboration with his sister, Mary Lamb (1764 - 1847). Charles Lamb
also had an older brother, John, named after their father, as well as four other
brothers and sisters who would not survive their infancy. Lamb would come to be
described by his main biographer, E.V. Lucas, as the most touching character in
English literature.

Lambs parents were Elizabeth Field and John Lamb. The father was a clerk for a
lawyer. Years later Charles would write a kind of biographical portrait of him in a
piece entitled Elia on the Old Benchers and would refer to him by the name of

Charles Lamb would become a close friend of the famous British philosopher,
literary critic and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 - 1834). In fact Lambs
first published work would be four sonnets which would be included in the 1796
Poems on Various Subjects by Coleridge. And yet because Lamb had a stutter he
would not only be disqualified at boarding school for a clerical career, but while
Coleridge and others would be able to go on to university, Lamb stopped his
schooling at the age of 14. Notwithstanding this would not prevent Lamb to
become an important member, and indeed to play an important part in a circle of
famous authors. This included important literary figures such as poet William
Wordsworth (1770 - 1850), essayist and poet Leigh Hunt (1784 - 1859), writer and
literary critic William Hazlitt (1778 - 1830) as well as poet Robert Southey (1774 -

In 1819 at the age of 44, Lamb who had never married mostly because of his
commitment to his troubled family. Case in point, together with his sister Charles
would write the famous Tales of Shakespeare, a collection of 20 tales inspired
by the eminent playwright. Published in 1807 this book remains to this day a
classic of British literature for youth. The first publisher of the work was the British
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journalist, political philosopher and novelist William Godwin (1756 - 1836),

husband of the English philosopher and one of the first advocate of womens right
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 - 1797), and also father of British writer Mary Shelley
(1797 - 1851). The book was to be constantly reprinted to this day and was even
finally illustrated for the first time in 1899 by Arthur Rackham (1867 - 1939). The
work would also be translated into several languages and thus made available
across the globe.

In the Essays of Elia, Lambs intimate and informal tone of voice would captivate
many readers, old and young. The essays describes the strange world of the
authors fictional alter ego that is embodied is the melancholic character Elia. It is
as a true painter of modern life that Lamb reinvents here the tradition of essay
writing. He does so, for instance, by mixing subjective bias, sensuality and critical
thinking. In those essays Lamb makes good use of irony, nostalgia, shares with us
his vivid fascination for the details of things, including the very minutes of
everyday life. In sum, Essays of Elia constitute a singular text in which the author
is clearly fascinated by the diversity of things, the unreality of the past, the
absolute uniqueness of experience as well as a keen awareness of the
limitations of writing. Lambswritings also includes poetry with Blank Verse
(1798), and with Prides Cure (1802). Novels, such as The Adventures of
Ulysses (1808) which was written with children in mind as the audience, it is thus
reminiscent of The Tales from Shakespeare. But also Specimens of English
Dramatic poets who lived about the time of Shakespeare (1808), which is
essentially a kind of anthology of sections from Elizabethan dramas together with
commentaries. This work has been said to have had a significant impact on the
way nineteenth century English verses would come to be written.

We also have pieces such as Witches and Other Night Fears (1821) and The
Last Essays of Elia (1833), which is the second volume of the famous Essays of
Elia (1823). This last volume would in fact be published shortly before Lambs
death. It includes essay titles such as A Bachelors Complaint of the
Behaviour of Married People; The Two Races of Men; My First Play;
Confessions of a Drunkard; Mrs. Battles Opinions on Whist as well as

In a very real sense, while in his lifetime Lamb was encouraged by many for his
hard work in literature, he actually enjoyed very little appreciation for his unique
talent while he was alive. Not surprisingly perhaps, he would thus go through
difficult moments of doubt with regards to his work and seriously seems to have
wondered about his ability to write anything worth mentioning. In fact, in similar
ways to his sister, Mary, he too would suffer episodes of psychological illness. Be
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that as it may, Charles Lamb left us with a very rich legacy of work ranging from
short stories, essays, poetry, even plays, as well asletters filled with his
exceptional intimate style and humor. Lamb would succumb of an infection he
would unfortunately contract from a minor cut on his face after having fallen in the
street, in fact only several months after Coleridge. Charles Lamb would die at
Edmonton, a suburb of London on December 27th 1834 at the age of 59. He is
buried at All Saints Churchyard, also in Edmonton. Mary, his sister would survive
him by more than a decade and would be buried next to him. It is interesting to
note that in 1849, 15 years after Lambs death, the French author
EugneForcade (1820 - 1869) would describe Lamb as having been of an
eminently friendly nature, an original writer, a kind of hero constantly caring for his
poor sister.



Charles Lamb, an English writer is best known for his essays. Although he wrote
poems and books, he is mainly known as an essayist. E.V.Lucas, his principal
biographer, has called him the most loved figure in English Literature.


He has written about 56 essays.

Humor and PATHOS

Old Actors (London Magazine, April, 1822)
Essays of Elia, which include 55 essays

The Essays are very personal, as they are somewhat fictionalized stories of him. It
tells us of what his life would have been had he made different decisions in his life.
In his essays, he mentions his family members often with different names. In
Dream Children: A Reverie, he fanaticizes his life, had he married his beloved
Ann Simmons, who he calls Alice W. in the Elia essays.

Lamb is chiefly remembered for his Elia essays, which are celebrated for their
witty and ironic treatment of everyday subjects. The Elia essays are
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characterized by Lambs personal tone, narrative ease, and wealth of literary

allusions. Never didactic, the essays treat ordinary subjects in a nostalgic, fanciful
way by combining humor, pathos, and a sophisticated irony ranging from gentle to

Lamb conjures up humor and pathos in his Elian essays. In the words of
Edmund Blunden, Lambs essays

range from the vision of beautiful children that never were to be to the drollery
consequent upon old George Dyers tumbling into the New Rivers tenuous trickle,
from nonsensical rebellion against Beethoven, Bath, Mozart to the contemplation
of true and false imaginative paintings.


The prose essays, under the signature of Elia form the most delightful section
amongst Lambs works, is Essays of Elia. Traverse a peculiar field of observation,
sequestered from general interest, and they are composed in a spirit too delicate
and unobtrusive to catch the ear of the noisy crowd, clamoring for strong
sensations. This retiring delicacy itself, the pensiveness cheered by gleams of the
fanciful, and the humor that is touched with cross-lights of pathos, together with
the picturesque quaintness of the objects casually described, whether men, or
things, or usages; and in the rear of all this the constant recurrence to ancient
recollections and to decaying forms of household life, as things retiring before the
tumult of new and revolutionary generations these traits in combination
communicate to the papers a grace and strength of originality which nothing in
any literature approaches, whether for degree or kind of excellence, except the
most felicitous papers of Addison, such as those on Sir Roger de Coverley and
some other sin the same vein of composition.

Although Dream Children begins on a merry note, the dark side of life soon forces
itself upon Lambs attention and the comic attitude gives way to melancholy at the
end of the essay. Throughout the essay Lamb presents his children in such a way
that we never guess that they are merely fragments of his imagination their
movements, their reactions, and their expressions are all realistic. It is only at the
end of the essay that we realize that the entire episode with his children is a
merely a daydream. We are awakened by a painful realization of the facts.

Lambs essays are highly evocative, and the reader feels empathy towards the
characters. This is a characteristic quality of the Romantic Essayists. In Dream
Children, the narrator comments on how similar the daughters face is to the
mother and he cant tell which of the two is in front of him, but only in the end do
we realize that the entire story was just a fragment of his imagination.
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His essays have a reflective quality; he talks about his schooling days in Christs
Hospital in the essay, Christs Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago wherein he speaks
of himself in the third person as L.

Rosemund Gray is another essay in which he reflects upon his feelings for Ann
Simmons as the titular character and how their relationship doesnt go too far due
to Miss Gray passing away.

In the essay "New Year's Eve," which first appeared in the January 1821 issue of
The London Magazine, Lamb reflects wistfully on the passage of time.

To conclude we can see that Lambs essays are very personal. They possess humor
and pathos like most romantic works of literature. Lamb is also praised for his
allusive quality which is noted by many literary critics. And above all he is highly
evocative, a quality possessed by all Romantic writers.
In fact, Lambs essays are popular for various reasons, such as genial humor,
touching pathos, humanitarian outlook, practical commonsense, nobility and
gentility of nature and above all the revelation of their creators self. These factors,
individually as well as collectively, have won for Lamb a unique place in the history
of English essay.

Lambs essays are as various as the very human nature. Lambs thinking heart
finds a tale in everything that he saw or experienced. In fact, since Bacon, essay
had been used as a vehicle to give expression to the writers thoughts and ideas
on matters of general interest. But Lamb did not find pleasure in expressing his
thought systematically. His themes are suggested by sudden flashes of
imagination. As a matter of fact, his essays are his own revelations. It is his likes
and dislikesprejudices and opinions that find place in the essays. In
treatment almost every essay moves through a series of moods, wild and sweet,
grave and subdued, clear and practical, sumptuous and sonorousthe
essays are differenced many blossomed and handsome.


Charles began writing both for pleasure and as a means of increasing his income
which was now supporting both himself and Mary. He found that writing allowed
him to escape his life of anxiety and come back to it refreshed and strengthened.
Charles wrote in many genres including drama, fiction, and poetry. He also
wrote literary criticism which was penetrating, interpretive, and imaginative. It
was his unique personality and his lack of concern for conventional order that
made Charles well suited for the personal essay, the genre for which he is best
remembered. Charles was more interested in portraying a character and
expressing his or her emotions than in following character development and
conflict in a story; and through the personal essay, he was able to write numerous
character sketches based solely on one character. It is also through the personal
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essay genre that Charles could express artistic themes that were most important
to him: the past, theater, and fantasy.


Name of his some poem:

A Ballad

A Dramatic Fragment

A Farewell To Tobacco

A Parody

A timid grace sits trembling in her eye

A Vision Of Repentance


As when a child...

Beauty And The Beast

Beauty's Song




Choosing A Name

The son of John and Elizabeth Field Lamb, Charles Lamb, a Londoner who loved and
celebrated that city, was born in the Temple, the abode of London lawyers, where
his father was factotum for one of these, Samuel Salt. The family was ambitious for
its two sons, John and Charles, and successful in entering Charles at Christ's
Hospital, a London charity school of merit, on 9 October 1782. Here he met Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, a fellow pupil who was Lamb's close friend for the rest of their
lives and who helped stir his growing interest in poetry. Lamb left school early, on
23 November 1789.

Soon after leaving school, he was sent to Hertfordshire to his ill grandmother,
housekeeper in a mansion seldom visited by its owners. Here he fell in love with
Ann Simmons, subject of his earliest sonnets. His "Anna" sonnets, which appeared
in the 1796 and 1797 editions of Coleridge's Poems, have a sentimental, nostalgic
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"Was it some sweet device of Faery

That mocked my steps with many a lonely glade,

And fancied wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid?";

"Methinks how dainty sweet it were, reclin'd";

"When last I roved these winding wood-walks green";

"A timid grace sits trembling in her eye."

All were written after the love affair had ended, to Lamb's regret. His early novel,
A Tale of Rosamund Gray (1798), is also rooted in the Ann episode.

After the death of Samuel Salt in 1792 the Lambs were in straitened
circumstances, mother and father both ill. The elder brother, John, was living
independently and was not generous to his family. On Charles and his elder sister,
Mary, a dressmaker who had already shown signs of mental instability, fell the
burden of providing for the family, and Mary took on the nursing as well. Two of
Lamb's early sonnets are addressed to her: Mary, who was ten years older than
Charles, had mothered him as a child, and their relationship was always a close
one. Charles continued to writea ballad on a Scottish theme, poems to friends
and to William Cowper on that poet's recovery from a fit of madness. "A Vision of
Repentance", treats a truly Romantic themethe hope of God's forgiveness for
the sin of a repentant Psyche. It has a Keatsian charm but little lasting distinction.

The tragedy of 22 September 1796when Mary, exhausted and deranged from

overwork, killed their mother with a carving knifechanged both their lives
forever. She was judged temporarily insane, and Lamb at twenty-two took full legal
responsibility for her for life, to avoid her permanent confinement in a madhouse.
Thereafter she was most often lucid, warm, understanding, and much admired by
such friends as the essayist William Hazlitt. She also developed skills as a writer.
But she was almost annually visited by the depressive "illness" which led to her
confinement for weeks at a time in a private hospital in Hoxton. Both were known
for their capacity for friendship and for their mid-life weekly gatherings of writers,
lawyers, actors, and the odd but interesting "characters" for which Lamb had a

For the moment Lamb "renounced" poetry altogether, but he soon took it up
again and began work on a tragedy in Shakespearean blank verse, John Woodvil
(1802), which has autobiographical elements. While there are a few fine lines and
the writing in general is competent but unoriginal, plotting and character are weak:
it was never produced. "The Wife's Trial," a late play in blank verse, is of minor
interest. It was published in the December 1828 issue of Blackwood's Magazine.
His only play to reach the stage, Mr. H(in prose), was roundly hissed in London
when it opened on 10 December 1806, but it was successfully produced in the
United States thereafter.
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Though soon after his mother's death he announced his intention to leave poetry
"to my betters," Lamb continued to write verse of various kinds throughout his life:
sonnets, lyrics, blank verse, light verse, prologues and epilogues to the plays of
friends, satirical verse, verse translations, verse for children, and finally Album
Verses (1830), written to please young ladies who kept books of such tributes. By
1820 he had developed what was to be his "Elia" prose style. He was the first
intensely personal, truly Romantic essayist, never rivaled in popularity by his
friends Leigh Hunt and William Hazlitt. Many of Lamb's essays before those he
signed Elia came out in Hunt's publications."

Lamb's first publication was the inclusion four sonnets in Coleridge's Poems on
Various Subjects, published in 1796 by Joseph Cottle. The sonnets were
significantly influenced by the poems of Burns and the sonnets of William
Bowles, a largely forgotten poet of the late 18th century. Lamb's poems garnered
little attention and are seldom read today. As he himself came to realize, he was a
much more talented prose stylist than poet. Indeed, one of the most celebrated
poets of the dayWilliam Wordsworthwrote to John Scott as early as 1815
that Lamb "writes prose exquisitely"and this was five years before Lamb
began The Essays of Elia for which he is now most famous.

Notwithstanding, Lamb's contributions to Coleridge's second edition of the

Poems on Various Subjects showed significant growth as a poet. These poems
included The Tomb of Douglas and A Vision of Repentance. Because of
temporary fallout with Coleridge, Lamb's poems were to be excluded in the third
edition of the Poems though as it turned out a third edition never emerged.
Instead, Coleridge's next publication was the monumentally influential Lyrical
Ballads co-published with Wordsworth. Lamb, on the other hand, published a book
entitled Blank Verse with Charles Lloyd, the mentally unstable son of the
founder of Lloyds Bank. Lamb's most famous poem was written at this time and
entitled The Old Familiar Faces. Like most of Lamb's poems, it is unabashedly
sentimental, and perhaps for this reason it is still remembered and widely read
today, being often included in anthologies of British and Romantic period poetry. Of
particular interest to Liberians is the opening verse of the original version of The
Old Familiar Faces, which is concerned with Lamb's mother, whom Mary Lamb
killed. It was a verse that Lamb chose to remove from the edition of his Collected
Work published in 1818:

I had a mother, but she died, and left me,

Died prematurely in a day of horrors -

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

In his poem Anger the point is that we should be careful about how we portray
our anger, because it can easily lose our grasp. It is very important that we know
the time and place to express our emotions instead of letting them loose whenever
and wherever. As in this poem he compares anger to that of a snake and a bee,
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hence in this way he not only shows his intelligence of taking things on such a high
level but the best use of poetic devices is well mentioned as well.

Besides all this we came to knew from his poetry that he is well known to the use
of refrains and rhythm in poetry. There is a deep pleasure to listen his poems.
Furthermore the repetition of vowel sounds is well seen in his poetry. These all
characteristics can be seen in his poem The Old Familiar Faces.


Montaigne, a French writer, was the father of the essay, and it was Francis
Bacon who naturalized the new form in English. However, there is much difference
between his essays and the essays of his model. Montaigne's essays are marked
by his tendency towards self-revelation, a light-hearted sense of humor, and
tolerance. But Bacon in his essay is more an adviser than a companion: he is
serious, objective, and didactic.
It has well been said that the essay took a wrong turn in the hands of Bacon. For
two centuries after Bacon the essay in England went on gravitating towards the
original conception held by Montaigne, but it was only in the hands of the romantic
essayists of the early nineteenth century that it became wholly personal, light, and
lyrical in nature. From then onwards it has seen no essential change. The position
of Lamb among these romantic essayists is the most eminent. In fact, he has often
been called the prince of all the essayists England has so far produced.
Hugh Walker calls him the essayist par excellence who should be taken as a model.
It is from the essays of Lamb that we often derive our very definition of the essay,
and it is with reference to his essays as a criterion of excellence that we evaluate
the achievement and merit of a given essayist. Familiarity with Lamb as a man
enhances for a reader the charm of his essays. And he is certainly the
most charming of all English essays. We may not find in him the massive genius of
Bacon, or the ethereal flights (O altitude) of Thomas Browne, or the brilliant lucidity
of Addison, or the ponderous energy of Dr. Johnson, but none excels him in the
ability to charm the reader or to catch him in the plexus of his own personality.
Charles Lamb a well-known literary figure in the 19 th century is chiefly
remembered for his Elia essays, work famous for his wit and ironic treatment of
everyday subjects. Because of his nostalgia and humorous idiosyncrasies, his
works were conspicuously known throughout the 19 th and 20th century. He brought
a new kind of warmth to English prose. His sentences can be intense, they can
sneer, they can scream, but they always have a kind of rounded glow, like a
welcoming, slightly melancholy fireplace. Writing in that genre which has been
called the personal essay, again and again Lamb made literary delightfulness
of the things that tormented him mostincluding his resentments and
drunkennessand his sentences are usually beautiful.
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The style of Lamb is described as quaint, because it has the strangeness which
we associate with something old-fashioned. One can easily trace in his English the
imitations of the 16th and 17th century writers he most lovedMilton, Sir Thomas
Browne, Fuller, Burton, Isaac Walton. According to the subject he is treating, he
makes use of the rhythms and vocabularies of these writers. That is why, in every
essay Lambs style changes. This is the secret of the charm of his style and it
also prevents him from ever becoming monotonous or tiresome. His style is also
full of surprises because his mood continually varies, creating or suggesting its
own style, and calling into play some recollection of this or that writer of the older

What strikes one particularly about Lamb as an essayist is his persistent readiness
to reveal his everything to the reader. The evolution of the essay from Bacon to
Lamb lies primarily in its shift from objectivity to subjectivity, and from formality to

Of all the essayists it is perhaps Lamb who is the most autobiographic. His own life
is for him "such stuff as essays are made on. He could easily say what Montaigne
had said before him-"I myself am the subject of my book. The change from
objectivity to subjectivity in the English essay was, by and large, initiated by
Abraham Cowley who wrote such essays as the one entitled "Of Myself. Lamb with
other romantic essayists completed this change. Walter Pater observes
in Appreciations;

"With him, as with Montaigne, the desire of self-portraiture is below all mere
superficial tendencies, the real motive in 'writing at all, desire closely connected
with intimacy, that modern subjectivity which may be called the Montaignesque
element in literature. In his each and every essay we feel the vein of his

His essays are, as it were, so many bits of autobiography by piecing which together
we can arrive at a pretty authentic picture of his life, both external and internal. It
is really impossible to think of an essayist who is more personal than Lamb. His
essays reveal him fully-in all his whims, prejudices, past associations, and
experiences. "Night Fears" shows us Lamb as a timid, superstitious boy. "Christ's
Hospital" reveals his unpalatable experiences as a schoolboy. We are introduced to
the various members of his family in numerous essays like "My Relations' "The Old
Benchers of the Inner Temple," and "Poor Relations. We read of the days of his
adolescence in "Mockery End in Hertfordshire. His tenderness towards his sister
Mary is revealed by "Mrs. Battle's Opinions on Whist. His professional life is
recalled in "The South-Sea House" and "The, Superannuated Man. His sentimental
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memories full of pathos find expression in "Dream Children. His prejudices come
to the fore in "Imperfect Sympathies" and "The Confessions of a Drunkard. His
gourmandize finds a humors utterance in "A Dissertation upon Roast Pig, Grace
before Meat, and elsewhere. In "Dream Children, for instance, his unfruitful
attachment with Ann Simmons is referred to. She got married and her children had
to "call Bartram father." Lamb is engaged in a reverie about "his children" who
would have possibly been born had he been married to Alice W-n (Ann Simmons).
When the reverie is gone this is what he finds:

"...and immediately awaking, I found myself quietly seated in my bachelor arm-

chair where I had fallen asleep, with the faithful Bridget [his sister Mary]
unchanged by my side...but John L (his brother John Lamb) was gone forever."

Thus his egotism is born of a sense of humility rather than hauteur. Samuel C.
Chew observes:

Like all the romantics he is self-revelatory, but there is nothing in him of the
egotistical-sublime. Experience had made him too clear-sighted to take any
individual, least of all himself, too seriously. The admissions of his own
weaknesses, follies, and prejudices are so many humorous warnings to his
Lamb's excessive occupation with himself may lead one to assume that he is too
selfish or egocentric, or that he is vulgar or inartistic. Far from that, Egotism with
Lamb sheds its usual offensive accoutrements. His egotism is free from vulgarity.
Well does Compton-Rickettobserve:

"There is no touch of vulgarity in these intimacies; for all their frank unreserved we
feel the delicate refinement of the man's spiritual nature. Lamb omits no essential,
he does not sentimentalize, and does not brutalize his memories. He poetizes
them, preserving them for us in art that can differentiate between genuine reality
and crude realism."

His artistic sense of discrimination-selection and rejection-has also to be taken into

account. David Daiches maintains:
"The writer's own character is always there, flaunted before the reader, but it is
carefully prepared and controlled before it is exhibited.
Though Lamb is an egotist yet he is not self-assertive. He talks about himself
not because he thinks himself to be important but because he thinks himself to be
the only object he knows intimately. Thus his egotism is born of a sense of humility
rather than hauteur. Samuel C. Chew observes:
"Like all the romantics he is self-revelatory, but there is nothing in him of the
'egotistical-sublime.' Experience had made him too clear-sighted to take any
individual, least of all himself, too seriously. The admissions of his own
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weaknesses, follies, and prejudices are so many humorous warnings to his


Lamb's contribution to the English essay also lies in his changing the general tone
from formality to familiarity. This change was to be accepted by all the essayists to
follow. "Never", says Compton-Rickett
"was any man more intimate in print than he. He has made of chatter a fine art."
Lamb disarms the reader at once with his button holding familiarity. He plays with
him in a puckish manner, no doubt, but he is always ready to take him into
confidence and to exchange heart-beats with him. In the essays of the writers
before him we are aware of a well-marked distance between the writer and
ourselves. Bacon and Addison perch themselves, as it were, on a pedestal, and
cast pearls before the readers standing below. In Cowley, the distance between the
reader and writer narrows down-but it is there still. It was left for Lamb to abolish
this distance altogether. He often addresses the reader ("dear reader") as if he
were addressing a bosom friend. He makes nonsense of the proverbial English
insularity and "talks" to the readers as "a friend and man" (as Thackeray said he
did in his novels). This note of intimacy is quite pleasing, for Lamb is the best of

He is a friend, and not a teacher. Lamb shed once and for all the didactic
approach which characterizes the work of most essayists before him. Bacon called
his essays "counsels civil and moral." His didacticism is too palpable to need a
comment. Lamb is too modest to pretend to proffer moral counsels. He never
argues, dictates, or coerces. We do not find any "philosophy of life" in his essays,
though there are some personal views and opinions flung about here and there
not for examination and adoption, but just to serve as so many ventilators to let us
have a peep into his mind.
"Lamb", says Cazamian, "is not a moralist nor a psychologist, his object is not
research, analysis, or confession; he is, above all, an artist. He has no aim save the
reader's pleasure, and his own."
But though Lamb is not a downright pedagogue, he is yet full of sound wisdom
which he hides under a cloak of frivolity and tolerant good nature. He sometimes
looks like the Fool in King Lear whos weird and funny words are impregnated with
a hard core of surprising sanity. As a critic avers,
"though Lamb frequently donned the cap and bells, he was more than a jester;
even his jokes had kernels of wisdom.
n his "Character of the Late Elia" in which he himself gives a character-sketch of
the supposedly dead Elia, he truly observes : "He would interrupt the gravest
discussion with some light jest; and yet, perhaps not quite irrelevant in ears that
could understand it."
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The rambling nature of his essays and his lightness of touch are some other
distinguishing features of Lamb as an essayist. He never bothers about keeping to
the point. Too often do we find him flying off at a tangent and ending at a point
which we could never have foreseen? Every road with him seems to lead to the
world's end. We often reproach Bacon for the "dispersed" nature of his
"meditations", but Lamb beats everybody in his monstrous discursiveness. To
consider some examples, first take up his essay "The Old and the New School-
master. In this essay which apparently is written for comparing the old and new
schoolmaster, the first two pages or thereabouts contain a very humorous and
exaggerated description of the author's own ignorance. Now, we may ask, what
has Lamb's ignorance to do with the subject in hand? Then, the greater part of the
essay "Oxford in the Vacation" is devoted to the description of his friend Dyer.
Lamb's essays are seldom artistic, well-patterned wholes. They have no
beginning, middle and end. Lamb himself described his essays as
"a sort of unlocked incondite things.
However, what these essays lose in artistic design they gain in the touch of
spontaneity. This is what lends them what is called "the lyrical quality."


Lamb's humor, humanity, and the sense of pathos are all his own; and it is mainly
these qualities which differentiate his essays from those of his contemporaries. His
essays are rich alike in wit, humor, and fun. Hallward and Hill observe in the
Introduction to their edition of the Essays of Elia:
"The terms Wit, Humor and Fun are often confused but they are really different in
meaning. The first is based on intellect, the second on insight and sympathy, the
third on vigor and freshness of mind and body. Lamb's writings show all the three
qualities, but what most distinguishes him is Humor, for his sympathy is ever
strong and active."
Humor in Lamb's essays constitutes very like an atmosphere "with linked
sweetness long drawn out." Its Protean shapes range from frivolous puns, impish
attempts at mystification, grotesque buffoonery, and Rabelaisian verbosity (see,
for example, the description of a "poor relation") to the subtlest ironical stroke
which pierces down to the very heart of life. J. B. Priestley observes in English
"English humor at its deepest and tenderness seems in him [Lamb] incarnate. He
did not merely create it, he lived in it. His humor is not an idle thing, but the white
flower, plucked from a most dangerous nettle."
What particularly distinguishes Lamb's humor is its close alliance with pathos.
While laughing he is always aware of the tragedy of life-not only his life, but life in
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general. That is why he often laughs through his tears. Witness his treatment of
the hard life of chimney sweepers and Christ's Hospital boys. The descriptions are
touching enough, but Lamb's treatment provides us with a humorous medium of
perception rich in prismatic effects, which bathes the tragedy of actual life in the
iridescence of mellow comedy. The total effect is very complex, and strikes our
sensibility in a bizarre way, puzzling us as to what is comic and what is tragic.

A word, lastly, about Lambs peculiar style which is all his own and yet not his, as he is a
tremendous borrower. He was extremely influenced by some old-world writers like Fuller
and Sir Thomas Browne. It is natural, then, that his style is archaic. His sentences are long
and rambling, after the 17th century fashion. He uses words many of which are
obsolescent, if not obsolete. But though he struts in borrowed plumes, these borrowed
plumes seem to be all his own. Well a critic says:

The blossoms are culled from other mens gardens, but their blending is all
Lambs own.


Passing through Lambs imagination they become something fresh and individual. His style
is a mixture certainly of many styles, but a chemical not a mechanical mixture. His
inspiration from old writers gives his style a romantic coloring which is certainly intensified
by his vigorous imagination. Very like Wordsworth he throws a fanciful veil on the common
objects of life and converts them into interesting and romantic shapes. His peculiar style
is thus an asset in the process of romanticizing everyday affairs and objects which
otherwise would strike one with a strong feeling of ennui. He is certainly a romantic
essayist. What is more, he is a poet.


For most of the people the English essay is unavoidably connected with the name
of Charles Lamb (1775-1834). Many consider Lamb to be the typical essayist. But
while Lamb has been called the Prince of Essayist, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was
the Father of English Essay, for introducing the genre into England. Bacon is
famous for his informative essays while Lamb is popular for his personal type of

Most of the time, the style of a writer is dictated by the type of subjects he is
writing on. Both Bacon and Lamb wrote on a wide range of topics, but the purpose
of each case differed. Bacon wrote with the declared aim of guiding his readers in
matters of civil and moral importance. He called his essays- Counsels, civil and
moral. Governed by the need of offering practical advice for worldly success,
Bacons style is rhetorical, persuasive, and designed to convince his readers. On
the other hand, Lamb was not governed by any such aim in his writing. His essays
P a g e | 15

are purely of a personal nature, reminiscent, nostalgic and rambling. His style
reflects the idiosyncrasies, whims and personal likes of his.


Bacon is never personal in his Lambs essays are very much
essays and his essays obviously influenced by his personal life hence
are not influenced by his personal he is very much personal in his
life essays.
His style is clear, impressive and Confidential chat present in
not in the least bit resembling a Bacons style is the quality that is
Confidential chat. most obvious in Lambian Style.
Both writers make profuse use of allusions and quotations, but the
difference lies in the method of use.
Bacon uses his allusions solemnly, Lamb uses allusions almost casually,
to illustrate his point, or to lend as if they simply came to him
weight to his analysis. For naturally not to convince a reader
example in Of Nature in Men, he but to share an experience.
warns that a man should not feel
complacent about a victory over
nature, and goes on to
substantiate the point with the
help of the allusion to one of
Aesops Fable. His allusions and
images are brought in with the
specific purpose of impressing an
idea all the more forcibly on
readers mind.
There is one aspect which both Lamb and Bacon share. Bacon in his all
essays and Lamb at least some of his, show mastery over aphoristic
Studies serve for delight, for Marriage by its best title is a
ornament, and for ability. monopoly and of the least invidious
(Of Studies, Bacon) sort
(A Bachelors Complaint of the
Behavior of Married People, Lamb)
There is no touch of poetry in Touch of poetry is another
Bacons essays.Bacon has used characteristic of Lambian essays.
figurative language most For example:
effectively, as he has done in Of Fantastic forms, whither are ye
Truth, Of Friendship, Of Unity in fled?
Religion etc. But we cannot tell it Or if the like of you exists
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poetic. why comes in reason to tear

away the preternatural mist, bright
or gloomy, that enshrouded you?...
Bacon never distress from the Lamb always distress from the topic
topic he is dealing with. he is dealing with.
Bacon often suggests many Charles Lamb shares his personal
things to his readers for attaining experiences implicitly give
success in worldly life. suggestions and knowledge.
Bacons essays spring from an Lambs essays are the out pouring
impersonal and stately motive. of simple and spontaneous but
deep personal feeling.
From the essays and biography it is seen that Lamb was very much
moved by the rises and clashes of life as we can refer the matter of his
pausing writing. From 1811 to 1820 he wrote nothing and was giving his
time to his friends, especially to the young ones. On the other hand
Bacon kept his personal life far away from his writing.

Bacon is the greatest of the English essayist of the informative,

impersonal and didactic kind, while Lamb is the master of personal
essays. Bacon is too magnificent to be humorous and Lamb is too
companionable to be stately. Bacon states his ideas confidently in the
tersest of language; Lambs style is full of interactions, ramblings and
intimate revelations.