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Author: Lamb, Charles


Lamb, Charles (1775-1834: ODNB)

The youngest of three surviving children of John and Elizabeth (Field) Lamb, he was born in London, in the Temple where his father John (q.v.) was the servant of a bencher, Samuel Salt. Salt proved a benefactor to the whole family. He made the contents of his library available to them and, as a Governor of Christ's Hospital School, arranged for the two boys to get a good education. Charles attended from 1782 to 1791 and made close, lifelong friends there, notably Coleridge and Hunt (qq.v.), through whom he later met the Wordsworths, Hazlitt, Godwin, and the newspaper publisher Daniel Stuart. In 1792 he went to work as a clerk for the East India Company, rising in the Company until he retired with a good pension in 1825. The risk of mental illness was one he shared with his father and sister Mary (q.v.), though Lamb himself had to be locked up only once, in 1795. In 1796, Mary killed their mother. Charles stood surety for her and made a home with her for the rest of his life; they held convivial literary evenings, collaborated in writings for children, and raised an orphan together. He also collaborated in volumes of poetry with Coleridge and Charles Lloyd; he published a novel, Rosamund Gray (1798), and contributed to some of Stuart's papers. He had a great interest in the London theatre but his writings for the stage were not successful; he had better fortune with an influential anthology of Elizabethan drama, Specimens of the English Dramatic Poets (1808). Ollier published his Works in two volumes in 1818, and a collective volume of his poetical works along with those of Rogers, Montgomery, and Kirke White, first published by Galignani in Paris in 1829, spread his name as a poet to America. His literary reputation rests, however, on the immensely popular essays that he wrote under the pseudonym "Elia" for the London Magazine from 1820 to 1825, collected as Elia (1823) and Last Essays of Elia (1833). His final years were shadowed by depression and alcoholism, and by the deterioration of his sister's condition. He and Mary retired to a cottage in Edmonton in 1833, where he died of the consequences of a fall a year later. Both are buried in the Edmonton churchyard. (ODNB 25 Aug. 2019)


Other Names:

  • C. Lamb
  • Charles
  • Lamb

Books written (20):

London: John and Arthur Arch, 1798
[London]: Thos. Hodgkins, 1805
[London]: [Godwin:] printed by McMillan, [1811]
London: Godwin, 1811
Boston: West and Richardson, and Edward Cotton, 1812
London: C. and J. Ollier, 1818
New Haven [CT]: J. Babcock and Son, 1819
New Haven [CT]: J. Babcock and Son, 1820
London: Edward Moxon, 1830
Philadelphia: Carey and Lea, 1830
Philadelphia: Carey and Lea, 1831
Philadelphia: J. Grigg, 1832
Philadelphia: J. Grigg, 1834