1854 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Lamb

Robert Shelton Mackenzie, Note in Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:224n.



Charles Lamb, the gentle Elia, was born in 1775, and died in 1834. Few authors have won more sincere and general regard from "hosts of friends." His Essays form one of the most popular works in the language. A great deal of good pity has been expended on the fact that Lamb was "doomed to the cruel desk in daily toil." He was a clerk in the accountant's office in the East India House, commencing on a respectable and rising salary, his sole labors being to copy papers into books of record. When he retired, after thirty-five years' service, his income had increased to 700 a-year, and he was then allowed a retiring life-allowance of 450 a year. Great consideration was shown him by his superiors. On one occasion, however, (the usual office-hours being nominally from 10 to 4), he entered his office at noon. The principal said, "Mr. Lamb, you really do come so late." Lamb paused, and said, with the arch simplicity which distinguished him, "True, sir, but then — I go away so early!"