A Life of Charles Lamb
by Eric G. Wilson
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 4 Jan 2022 | Archive Date 1 Feb 2022
Yale University Press, London, Yale University Press
“[An] electrifying portrait of Charles Lamb.”—New Yorker
A pioneer of urban Romanticism, essayist Charles Lamb (1775–1834) found inspiration in London’s markets, theaters, prostitutes, and bookshops. He prized the city’s literary scene, too, where he was a star wit. He counted among his admirers Mary Shelley, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His friends valued in his conversation what distinguished his writing style: a highly original blend of irony, whimsy, and melancholy.
Eric G. Wilson captures Lamb’s strange charm in this meticulously researched and engagingly written biography. He demonstrates how Lamb’s humor helped him cope with a life‑defining tragedy: in a fit of madness, his sister Mary murdered their mother. Arranging to care for her himself, Lamb saved her from the gallows. Delightful when sane, Mary became Charles’s muse, and she collaborated with him on children’s books. In exploring Mary’s presence in Charles’s darkly comical essays, Wilson also shows how Lamb reverberates in today’s experimental literature.
“We have waited a long time for the definitive full-scale scholarly biography of Charles Lamb--master of the witty and winding essay--but now it has arrived. Eric Wilson’s Dream-Child is not only a labor of love for a lovable figure, but also a vivid and skillful placing of Lamb in the context of Romanticism and early nineteenth-century London life.”—Sir Jonathan Bate, author of Radical Wordsworth