Charles Lamb as an Essayist

Charles Lamb as an Essayist

Charles lamb began his literary career as a poet. However, he is remembered today for his essays. The appeared for the first line in The Reflector published by Leigh Hunt. Critical in nature they helped him to gain the expertise to write the brilliant essays of Elia, which become very popular. The essays published in The Reflector like the one London and those on Garrick and Hogarth were received well. Besides essays, he had also written poems for Hunt of which Farewell to Tobacco become famous.

However, his true genius thrived under the inspired editorship of John Scott in London Magazine. In 1820, the London magazine published the first of his Elia essays, where he used the pseudonym of Elia. It is believed that the name had been picked up randomly and was actually the name of an old Italian clerk,his colleague at south sea house, when is joined it is a young boy in 1791. Some even believe that Elia is the anagram of a lie when it was used by Charles lamb as he loved to surprisedand mystify his readers. Essays of Elia a collection of lamb's essays was published in 1823 and the second and last volume called The Last Essays of Elia was published in 1823. They contain all of lamb's essays.

In a letter to his publisher in 1822, just before the publication of his collected essays he wrote, " the essays want no preface: They are all preface. A preface is nothing, but a talk with The reader; they do nothing else'. Lamb's essays resemble in intimate talk with the reader through which he reveals his own character. His likes and dislikes, his peculiar whims and turns of thought, his opinion of men and matters, his humour and paths, his charm and personality. His essays deal with a various of themes and topics ranging from the pathos of Dream Children: A Reverie to the humour of Dissertation upon a Roast Pig. All of his essay intensely personal coloring everything that he writes with his rich personality.

Andrew Sanders believes that Charles lamb's essays, Cultivate a form and a style that Lamb admired in his 17 and 18 century mentors Becon, Walton, Fuller, Addison and Steele. He plays with a familiar archness, but he super adda his own delight in whimsy reminiscence and digression. Lamb also has a lot in common with the France master of the essay form, Montaigne. ' Lamb the antiquarian and Lamb the reflective exploiter of nostalgia had somehow turned his back on the issues of the day, preferring the byways of the past to the highways of the present.' sanders notes that by nature lambs looked more to the past than to the future. His essays as 'South Sea House' Christ's Hospital' ,My Relation', Dream Children 'and Old China' prove that he preferred to reminisce over his school days and of his youth.

This departure from the chief aim of the essay, which is of being didactic and reformative, makes the difference between Lamb's essays and that of his masters. Cazamian feels that, 'lundb is not a moralist nor a psychologists, his object is not research, analysis or confession, he is above all, an artist. He has no aim safe to the reader's pleasure and his own'. His essays were autobiographical and exhibited a taste for charm and serendipity.

Lamb's essays were concerned with expressing the writer's own personality; a characteristics of the 19th century. He enjoy freedom in his essays not only writing on a wide range of topics but also in depicting characters and their emotions instead of trying to reform them. At times, he developed characteristics and facts of one character to create several different characters. In the essay, 'Elia on the old benches' he created a sketch of his father by the name of the Lovel.' Blakesmoor in H- shire' documents his memories of his visits to his maternal grandmother's house in his childhood, ' Christ's Hospital' is a vivid recollection of his days in school where he met Coleridge. Lamb refer to  himself in the third person s 'L' in this essay. 'South Sea House' gives us a rare picture of his colleagues whom he met during his brief stint as a clerk in that house. His love Alica Winterton appears in several essays as ' Alice M 'and his subsequent failure to win her in spite of his wooing is alluded to in 'Dream Children' and 'New Year Eve'. At his retirement after 33 years of service he wrote, ' The Superannuated Man'. He writes about his relatives in 'My Relation'. He reveals his adolescence in 'Mockery End in Hertfordshire'. Each of his essays is infused with his indomitable spirit, is jest send and love for life.

Some of his essay were anecdotal like 'Dissertation upon A roast pig, 'a bachelor complaint' to name a few. In the last mentioned essay, he narrates how a friend's wife who had been married for only a fortnight because he had obviously spoken out of turn as he was a bachelor and should know nothing about, breeding of oysters snubs him. In the essay , 'Dissertation upon A roast pig', he relates a story of how the recipe of 'roast pig' was discovered quite accidentally by the Chinese.

Like Montaigne the France essayist, Lamb wrote personal essays. His essays appear light hearted, humorous, nostalgic and reminiscent. Humour and pathos co-exist in such a manner that critics wonder whether Elia truly reveals the writer, charles lamb or the real man concealed under a show of enthusiasm for life. The reason for this seeming discrepancy maybe traced to the facts of his life, which may have create a person who did not take life too seriously, and least of all himself. Lamb's humour is closely allied to pathos.

Charles lamb was a voracious reader who possessed a mind, which stored that he read especially that of the writers of The 17 century. His mind was steeped in the ways of Shakespeare and other minor dramatists of the period.He had a good knowledge of the works oh sir Thomas Browne, Burton, Fuller, goldsmith, Addison and Steele. In Hugh Walker's words, 'in point of Style lamb is not wholly modern. His exquisite but mannered English was based upon the prose Masters of the 17 century, mens like Browne, and Burton of the ' Anatomy' and Fuller. To them, he was drawn by a natural kinship. Their thoughts were largely his, their quaintness and conceits filled in with his humour, their antique flavour pleased his critical palate.
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