1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Lamb

B. M., "Lamb's Miscellaneous Writings" Living Poets of England: Specimens of the Living British Poets (1827) 2:448-49.



CHARLES LAMB was born in London, in 1775, and educated at Christ's Hospital.

Mr. Charles Lamb is distinguished at once as a poet and a periodical essayist.

There is something very peculiar in the genius of this writer. His mind has not a very wide range; but every thing it sees arises up before it in vivid beauty. He is never deceived by mere seeming magnitudes. He tries every thing by the standard of moral worth. Splendid commonplaces have no charm for the simplicity of his mind. He has small pleasure in following others along the beaten high-road. He diverses into green lanes and sunshiny glades, and not seldom into the darker and more holy places of undiscovered solitude. There is in him a rare union of originality of mind with delicacy of feeling and tenderness of heart. His understanding seems always to be guided by the kindliest affections, and they are good and trusty guides; so that there is not in his volumes a single sentiment or opinion which does not dispose its to love the pure-minded and high-souled person who breathes them out with such cordial sincerity. — The style of his prose seems to its exceedingly beautiful; something, perhaps, savouring of affectation, or at least of too studious all imitation of the elder writers; but almost always easy, simple, graceful, and concise. It is a style well worthy of all commendation in these days, when grace, elegance, and simplicity have been sacrificed to false splendour and an ambitious magnificence. — Mr. Lamb first of all comes before us in those volumes as a poet. He has reprinted several compositions which formerly appeared along with those of his friends Coleridge and Lloyd, and added a few others of great merit. He is far indeed from being a great poet, but he is a true one. He has not, perhaps, much imagination; at least he takes but short flights, but they are flights through purest Ether. There is a sort of timidity about him that chains his wings. He seems to want ambition. In reading his poems, we always feel that he might write for loftier things if he would. — But in his own sphere he delights us. He is the very best of those poets who are poets rather from fineness of perception, delicacy of fancy, and pure warmth of heart, than from the impulses of that higher creative power that works in the world of the imagination. We know that no man is more beloved by his friends than Charles Lamb; and it is impossible to read a page of his poetry without feeling that he deserves all their love.