Tragic domestic circumstances bound Charles to his sister Mary, with whom he lived "in a sort of double singleness", after she stabbed their mother to death in a fit of madness. Contrasting his tastes in reading with those of his sister, who "must have a story — well, ill, or indifferently told", Lamb confides that "out-of-the-way humours and opinion — heads with some diverting twist in them — the oddities of authorship please me most".
Montaigne, whose presence hovers over the Essays of Elia , would have approved. Lamb's nimble, cadenced prose, with its occasional antiquated turn of phrase, exhibits the same curious mixture of erudition and colloquialism, of seriousness and jest, as that of his French predecessor.
Evoked with rare sensuality, the minutiae of everyday life — a card game in "Mrs Battle's Opinions on Whist", the ritual of saying "Grace Before Meat", the perils of lending books in "The Two Races of Men" — are all grist to his mill.
Essays of Elia certainly lends itself to repeated reading, and when Lamb's popularity was at its height, his Victorian and Edwardian readers could recite entire passages. Thanks to this elegant new Hesperus edition, Charles Lamb's forgotten masterpiece is ripe for rediscovery. Topics Classics Classics corner.
In his Essays of Elia and its sequel, Last Essays of Elia, Charles Lamb explores a broad range of topics and works with various non-fiction tropes that often edge. Essays of Elia is a collection of essays written by Charles Lamb; it was first published in book form in , with a second volume, Last Essays of Elia, issued in.
Elia is the persona Lamb uses when writing essays, so instead of referring to Lamb or "the narrator," these synopses will refer simply to "Elia. Elia details his pet obsession, old china. The essay starts with—typical for Elia—a flight of fancy, as he gets lost in a scene of a tea ceremony depicted on a cup.
The essay veers into a conversation with Cousin Bridget about whether the days when they were poorer were more fulfilling than those of their comparative wealth. Much of this essay reads as Elia's elegy to his grandmother, Field , the magnanimous, fearless woman who took care of a mansion where Elia spent much of his childhood.
He recounts Field as well as his late brother John to his children, but when Elia begins to tell the children about their mother Alice , they fade away, and Elia wakes up from a dream. He never had any children by Alice, since Alice chose to marry another man.
A comical essay which includes many nuggets of fiction, "A Dissertation" is Elia's attempt to imagine the provenance of people eating roast pork, a dish that he loves. He talks about an imaginary ancient boy who burns down his family's shack but eats the pig that died in the fire and loves it. The essay veers into a discussion of Elia's love of sharing food with other people, before ending with a moral conundrum of how animals that are to be eaten should be slaughtered.
Elia describes the bank where he used to work, the South Sea House, which was the site of a famous financial speculation hoax. He recounts his various co-workers as well as the owners of the bank, but eventually reveals that his account may be as much of a hoax as the scam that the bank infamously ran. Elia writes an obituary for his friend Elliston , a beloved stage actor whose on-stage and off-stage presences were indistinguishable from one another.
Tragic domestic circumstances bound Charles to his sister Mary, with whom he lived "in a sort of double singleness", after she stabbed their mother to death in a fit of madness. I was born near it, and used to drink at that pump when I was a Rechabite of six years old. The publication of the essays in volume form did not by any means indicate that the author had worked out his vein; indeed, while the book was passing through the press he was writing other essays for the "London," though not with the same regularity; afterwards he contributed to the "New Monthly" and other magazines. The old man believes that his son has betrayed him and promptly dies of a broken heart. Representative evenings will be found described in various works.
Elliston is described as a passionate man whose only regrets are that he was pigeonholed late in his career for doing what he did best. This is a fanciful essay which is effectively a work of fiction imagining a New Year's Day party where all of the days of the year are personified and mingle with one another.
April Fool's is the master of ceremonies and creates delightful chaos throughout the celebration. In this essay, Elia talks about his compulsive reading habit, praising his favorites, Shakespeare and Milton, while confessing that he'll read just about anything with text that is put in front of him.
He rails against newspapers and especially the practice of reading them out loud in public settings, as this violates that individualistic style of reading that Elia favors. Elia is typically skeptical of hypocrisy in organized religion, but this is really the essay where he outlines the substance of his critique by way of articulating his own religious and moral convictions.