Charles Lamb

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Charles Lamb
BirthplaceInner Temple, London, England
Known for Essays of Elia. Tales from Shakespeare

Lamb, Charles

Lamb, Charles, 1775–1834, English essayist, b. London. He went to school at Christ's Hospital, where his lifelong friendship with Coleridge began. Lamb was a clerk at the India House from 1792 to 1825. In 1796 his sister Mary Ann Lamb (1764–1847) in a fit of temporary insanity attacked and wounded their father and stabbed and killed their mother. Lamb had himself declared her guardian to save her from permanent commitment to an asylum, and after 1799 they lived together. Mary was an intelligent and affectionate companion, but the shadow of her madness continued to plague their lives. They collaborated on several books for children, publishing in 1807 their famous Tales from Shakespeare. Lamb wrote four plays, none of which were successful. However, his dramatic essays, Specimens of English Dramatic Poets (1808), established his reputation as a critic and did much in reviving the popularity of Elizabethan drama. From 1800 on he wrote intermittently for periodicals, the major contribution being the famous Essays of Elia (London Magazine, 1820–25), which were collected in 1823 and 1833. The essays cover a variety of subjects and maintain throughout an intimate and familiar tone. Lamb's style is peculiarly his own. His close-knit, subtle organization, his self-revealing observations on life, and his humor, fantasy, and pathos combine to make him one of the great masters of the English essay. Lamb was a gifted conversationalist and was friendly with most of the major literary figures of his time.


See his Life, Letters and Writings, ed. by P. Fitzgerald (1895, repr. 1971); E. W. Marrs, Jr., ed., The Letters of Charles and Mary Anne Lamb (3 vol., 1975–78); biographies by A. Ainger (1901, repr. 1970), E. V. Lucas (1968), D. Cecil (1984), and B. Cornwall (2003); biography of Mary Anne Lamb by S. T. Hitchcock (2004); studies by E. Blunden (1954; 1933, repr. 1967), J. E. Riehl (1980), and G. Monsman (1984 and 2003).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lamb, Charles


Born Feb. 10, 1775, in London; died Dec. 27, 1834, in Edmonton. English writer. Son of a clerk.

Lamb graduated from a London school for the poor. His first sonnets were published anonymously in 1796. Lamb’s Blank Verse (1798, with C. Lloyd) contained one of his most famous poems, The Old Familiar Faces (Russian translations by M. L. Mikhailov and A. N. Pleshcheev). Tales From Shakespeare, which he wrote with his sister, Mary (1807; Russian translation, 1865), were retellings for children of Shakespeare’s plays.

Lamb contributed to many literary journals; his essays written under the pseudonym Elia (vol. 1, 1823; vol. 2, 1833) depicted the London poor with romantic imagination and warm humor.


Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 2, issue 1. Moscow, 1953.
D’iakonova, N, la. Londonskie romantiki iprobleme angliiskogo romantizma. Leningrad, 1970.
Lucas, E. V. Life of Charles Lamb, vols. 1-2. London, 1921.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
It also included several choice selections from the library of Charles Lamb. In pointing out the highlights of the collection, the auctioneers begin with Lamb's books, in boldface:
That these electronic files are increasingly being asked to stand in for an artifact that is more than 4,000 years old is something that, to say the least, would have evoked some stern and probably devastating words from the pen of Charles Lamb.
Charles Lamb fails to notice, not to mention understand, his sister's unhappiness as he is too preoccupied with his own worries and insecurities, namely those concerning his aspiration to become a respectable and successful writer.
Hull's Charles Lamb, Elia and the London Magazine argues for a reconsideration of the Elia-essays that takes into consideration their specifically metropolitan character, and their position in what Hull calls "periodical text," two subjects against which traditional romantic scholarship tended to be biased.
(28) Charles Lamb, 'Confessions of a Drunkard', in E.V.
This novel, by the author of Shakespeare: The Biography (2005), takes place in the 19th century, a few months before real-life Mary Lamb murdered her mother and a decade before her brother, English essayist Charles Lamb, published Tales from Shakespeare.
Leigh Hunt told me a wonderful story of Charles Lamb and his smile.
During the early 1820s Charles Lamb contributed a series of ironically self-revelatory essays to The London Magazine, hiding his personal frustrations beneath the witty facade of "Elia," his persona.
David Cecil (1902-1986) was the son of Robert and Eleanor Cecil and a prolific biographer who wrote about Lord Melbourne, Jane Austen, William Cowper, Walter de la Mare, and Charles Lamb, among others.
If essays were now as they evolved--as discursive expositions of thoughts, imaginings and entertainment (remember English essayist Charles Lamb telling us how roast pork was discovered?) (1) --that might be OK.
Little Jessica is also the first grandchild for the couple's parents John and Kath Bowkett and Cath and Charles Lamb, both of Wallsend.
His guests included William Wordsworth, John Keats, Charles Lamb, and Tom Monkhouse (merchant), with Joseph Ritchie (surgeon/explorer), John Landseer (engraver), and John Kingston (comptroller of stamps) joining them after the meal.