Charles Lamb: Essays

Charles Lamb and Spaces Separate from Rationality College

Contemporary reviewers who referred to Charles Lamb as imitating or affiliated with the ‘Lake School’ mocked what they perceived to be a taste for simplicity or childishness; his 1802 play John Woodvil, for example, was mockingly called ‘the first of those lost links which connect the improvements of Eschylus with the commencement of the art’ in the Edinburgh Review. Lamb himself identified with city sensibilities rather than ‘Lake’ landscapes at times: his first essay in The London Magazine, for example, was signed ‘The Londoner’, although he would later adopt the pseudonym ‘Elia’ when more truthfully recording his isolated lifestyle caring for his sister. The way Lamb uses physical spaces in his essays demonstrates a core trait of his infamously ‘lovable’ writing persona: irrational admiration and susceptibility to influence from his environment are held up as the correct way to appreciate your surroundings, especially in nostalgic spaces. The physical environments described in his essays reflect the literary environment he found himself in, and the ways in which he sought a space without serious moral lesson or rationality. This is probably why he lingers on dreams and childhood, both states of being that evoke strong...

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