1835 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Lamb

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine NS 3 (March 1835) 325-26.



Dec. 27. At Edmonton, after a short illness, aged 60, Mr. Charles Lamb, a gentleman well known to the public for his many pleasing works in prose and verse.

Mr. Lamb was a native of Lincolnshire. In his 8th year he was sent to Christ's Hospital, where he derived his taste for general literature, and his fitness for the pursuits of commercial life. He continued there till 1789, about which time he obtained a situation as clerk in the East India House, where he continued till the year 1825, and then retired, with a handsome annuity, on the superannuated list.

Mr. Lamb's principal works were as follow: — A small volume entitled "Blank Verse," printed in 1798 in conjunction with his friend Charles Lloyd; "Specimens of the English Dramatic Poets," 1808. Two dramatic pieces, "John Woodvil," a tragedy, and "Mr. H." an afterpiece. "Rosomond Grey," a beautiful pathetic tale, and "Old Blind Margery." The Works of Charles Lamb, 2 vols. 1818. "Elia," 1823, a collection of Essays, which were the most admired of his works, and appeared originally in the London Magazine. "Album Verses," 1830. "The adventures of Ulysses," and "Tales from Shakespeare," 2 vols. The last essays of "Elia," 1833. Subsequently to his specimens of the English Dramatic Poets, he published a second series, which appeared in Mr. Hone's Every Day Book, under the head of the "Garrick Papers," extracted from the valuable collection in the British Museum, and that work is illustrated with very valuable notes by Mr. Lamb. To this list of his productions may be added a small poem entitled "Satan in quest of a Wife;" and he also aided his sister, Miss Mary Lamb, in her elegant little work entitled "Mrs. Leycester's School."

On considering Mr. Lamb as diligently engaged in the pursuits of commercial life, it might surprise us that he could find leisure to write so much for the public; but the truth is, his faculties were extraordinary. The wit that he brought with him from school continued to flow uniformly and to increase through the whole course of his life. It was almost as natural with him to say witty things as to breathe; he could not enter a room without a joke, and he may be said to have almost conversed in extemporaneous humour. Nor did his discourse consist of merely sportive pleasantries; they had often the force of eloquence, joined with the solidity of argument, enlivened and softened by a humanity and benevolence which invariably beamed in his countenance. Perhaps, too, they were a little increased by his very infirmities; for he had a defect in his utterance, which gave a somewhat of quaintness and peculiarity of tone to his conversation. Overflowing as his spirits were, they never exceeded the bounds of propriety and decorum; and towards the fair sex, though he was never married, he never failed to evince the kindest feeling and purest respect.

Mr. Lamb has left behind him no other relation but the sister already mentioned, who is as amiable in disposition as himself, and who possesses a considerable share of literary talent. They were similar in their characters, their manners, and their studies; and there cannot be well conceived a more perfect example of fraternal and sisterly love, and untiring friendship, than that which existed between them, and which Mr. Lamb has elegantly alluded to in one of his poems, and likewise, in one of his Papers entitled "Mackery End;" wherein he says, "I wish that I could throw into a heap the remainder of our joint existences, that we might share them in equal division, — but that is impossible."

The present tribute of respect to the memory of this estimable gentleman, is offered by the same pen which gave a previous account of Mr. Lamb's works in the Gentleman's Magazine.