Friday, February 22, 2019
Lamb as an Essayist Essay
hither he was fortunate enough to have for a groomfellow the later famous Samuel Taylor Coleridge, his senior by rather more than two years, and a close and t wind uper life sentence- foresighted friendship began which had a singularly great fix on the whole of his subsequently career. When the time came for leaving school, where he had intentional nigh Greek and acquired considerable facility in Latin composition, beloved, after a brief stay at home (spent, as his school holidays had often been, over old English authors in the library of Mr Salt), was condemned to the labours of the desk,an persistent impediment in his speech disqualifying him for a school exhibition, and therefrom depriving him of the only means by which he could have obtained a university education. For a short time he held a clerkship in the South ocean House under his elder brother John, and in 1792 he entered the levelants office in the East India House, where during the adjoining three and cardi nal years the hundred folios of what he used to call his trustworthy deeds were produced. A dreadful contingency soon came upon him, which seemed to blight all his prospects in the very morning of life.There was insanity in the family, which in his ordinal year had led to his own confinement for some weeks in a lunatic asylum and, a some months afterwards, on the 22d of September 1796, his infant bloody shame, worn down to a state of extreme nervous wretchedness by attention to needlework by day and to her mother by night, was suddenly seized with acute art objectia, in which she stabbed her mother to the heart. The calm self-mastery and loving self-control which Charles deliver, by constitution excitable, nervous, and timid, disp planted at this crisis in his own history and in that of those nearest him, will ever give him an imperishable claim to the esteem and bosom of all who are capable of appreciating the heroisms of common life.His sister was of lam immediately pl aced in confinement, and with the speedy return of comparative health came the knowledge of her fatal deed himself calm and collected, he knew how to speak the manner of speaking of soothing and comfort. With the help of friends he succeeded in obtaining her release from the life-long restraint to which she would differently have been doomed, on the express condition that he himself should undertake the righteousness for her safe keeping.It proved no light charge for, though no virtuoso was capable of affording a more intelligent or untoughened companionship than Mary Lamb during her long periods of health, there was ever set out the apprehension of the recurrence of her ailment and, when from time to time the premonitory symptoms had sustain unmistakable, there was no alternative entirely her removal, which took place in soundlessness and tears. How deeply the whole course of Lambs domestic life must have been affected by his singular loyalty as a brother need non be poi nted out for one thing, it rendered impossible his union with Alice Winterton, whom he egresss to have truly loved, and to whom such(prenominal) mournful reference was do long afterwards in Dream Children, a Reverie.Lambs first appearance as an author was made in the year of the great tr elddy of his life (1796), when there were publish in the flashiness of Poems on Various Subjects by Coleridge four sonnets by Mr Charles Lamb of the India House. In the following year he to a fault contributed along with Charles Lloyd some pieces in blank euphony to Coleridges new volume of Poems. In 1798 he make a short and pathetic prose tale entitled Rosamund Gray, and in 1799 he was associated with Coleridge and Southey in the publication of the Annual Anthology, to which he had contributed a short religious poem in blank verse entitled Living without God in the World the company in which he was thus found brought upon him the irrelevant and pointless ridicule of Canning and Gillray. His next public appearance was not more fortunate.His John Woodvil (1801), a dismiss dramatic piece written in the style of the earlier Elizabethan period, and containing some genuine poetry and happy delineation of the gentler emotions, but as a whole deficient in plot, vigour, and character, was held up to ridicule by the Edinburgh Revieiv as a specimen of the rudest condition of the drama, a work by a man of the age of Thespis. The dramatic substance, however, was not thus advantageously quenched in Lamb. His next effort (1806) was a farce, conjured Mr II, the point of which lay in the heros anxiety to conceal his name, Hogsflesh it has recently been sic upon the boards with success in America, but in London it did not run the first night of its appearance. Its author bore the failure with rare composure and good humour, and soon struck into new and more successful palm of literary exertion.In 1807 appeared Tales founded on the Plays of Shakespeare, written by Charles and Ma ry Lamb and in 1808 Specimens of English Dramatic Poets who lived about the time of Shakespeare, with short but felicitous critical notes. In the same year Mary Lamb, aid by her brother, also published Poetry for Children and a collection of short school-girl tales under the title Mrs Leicesters School and to the same date belongs the Adventures of Ulysses, designed by Lamb as a companion to the Adventures of Telemachus. In 1810 began to appear Leigh Hunts quarterly periodical, The Reflector, in which Lamb published some(prenominal) (including the essays on the tragedies of Shakespeare and on Hogarth) that subsequently appeared in the first collective rendering of his Works (2 vols. 12mo), which appeared in 1818.The establishment of the London Magazine in 1820 touched him to the production of a series of new essays which rose into instant popularity, and may be said to form the chief cornerstone in the dainty but classic temple of his fame. The first of these, as it fell out, was a description of the old South Sea House, with which Lamb happened to have associated the name of a gay light-hearted foreigner called Elia, who had frequented it in the days of his service there. The nom de guerre adopted on this occasion was retained for the subsequent contributions which appeared collectively in a post 8vo volume of Essays in 1823. After a brief career of five years the London Magazine came to an end and about the same period Lambs long radio link with the India House terminated, a pension of about 450 having been assigned to him.The increased leisure, however, for which he had long sighed, did not prove favourable to literary production, which henceforth was limited to a few trifling contributions to the New Monthly and other serials. The malady of his sister, which continued to increase with ever shortening intervals of relief, broke in sorely on his lettered ease and comfort and it is unfortunately impossible to discount the deteriorating effects of a n over-free indulgence in the use of tobacco and alcohol on a temperament such as his. His removal on account of his sister to the quiet of the country, by tending to withdraw him from the stimulating smart set of the large circle of literary friends who had helped to make his Wednesday evening at homes so remarkable, doubtless also tended to intensify his listlessness and helplessness.One of the brightest elements in the occlusion years of his life was the friendship and companionship of Emma Isola, whom he and his sister had adopted, and whose marriage in 1833 to Mr Moxon, though a source of unselfish joy to Lamb, left him more than ever alone. While living at Edmonton, he was overtaken by an attack of erysipelas brought on by an accidental fall as he was walking on the London road after a few days illness he painlessly passed away on declination 27, 1834. The sudden death of one so widely known, admired, and beloved as Charles Lamb fell on the public, as well as on his own attached circle, with all the poignancy of a personal calamity and a private grief. His memory wanted no tribute that affection could bestow, and Wordsworth has commemorated in elemental and solemn verse the genius, virtues, and fraternal devotion of his previous(predicate) friend.In depth of thought and splendour of genius Charles Lamb was surpassed by not a few of his contemporaries, but as an essayist he is entitled to a place beside Montaigne, Sir Thomas Browne, Steele, and Addison. He unites many of the characteristics of from each one of these writers,refined wit, exquisite humour, a genuine and cordial vein of pleasantry, and heart-touching pathos. His fancy as an essayist is distinguished by great delicacy and inclination and even his conceits are imbued with human feeling and passion. He had an extreme and most exclusive partiality for our earlier prose writers, particularly for Fuller, Browne, and Burton, as well as for the dramatists of Shakespeares time and the ca re with which he studied them is apparent in all he ever wrote.It shines out conspicuously in his style, which has an veteran air, and is redolent of the peculiarities of the 17th century. Its antiquatedness has subjected the author to the charge of affectation, but there is postal code really affected in his writings. His style is not so oft an imitation as a reflexion of the older writers for in spirit he made himself their contemporary. A confirmed habit of studying them in preference to modern literature had made something of their style natural to him and long experience had rendered it not only easy and familiar but habitual. It was not a masquerade dress he wore, but the costume which showed the man to most advantage.With thought and meaning, often profound, though clothed in simple language, every sentence of his essays is pregnant, and in this respect he bears a steady resemblance to the writers already named. If he had their manner, he possessed their spirit likewise. To some of his essays and specimens we are considerably indebted for the revival of the dramatic writers of the Shakespearian age for he preceded Gifford and others in wiping the dust of ages from the works of these authors.In his brief comments on each specimen he displays exquisite powers of discrimination his discernment of the true meaning of his author is almost infallible. As a poet Lamb is not entitled to so high a place as that which mass be claimed for the essayist and critic. His dependence on Elizabethan models is here also manifest, but in such a way as to add together into all the greater prominence his native deficiency in the acquisition of verse. Yet it is impossible, once having read, ever to forget the tenderness and grace of such verses as those to Hester Savory and on The Old Familiar Faces, or the quaint humour of A Farewell to Tobacco. As a letter writer also Lamb is entitled to rank very high.The Letters of Charles Lamb, with a sketch of his life by one of his executors, Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd, appeared in 2 vols, in 1837, and Final Memorials of Charles Lamb, by the same hand, were published in 1848. Supplementary to these is the Memoir by another personal friend B. W. Procter (Barry Cornwall) published in 1866. See also Fitzgeralds Charles Lamb, his Friends, his Barents, and his Books, 1866 Cradocks Charles Lamb, 1867 and Carew Hazlitts Mary and Charles Lamb Poems, Letters, and Remains, 1874. There have been several complete editions of the Works of Lamb of these the fullest as well as most recent is that of Fitzgerald, Life, Letters, and Writings of Charles Lamb, 6 vols., 1870-76).