Charles Lamb: Essays

Charles Lamb: Essays Summary and Analysis of "Rejoicings Upon the New Year's Coming of Age"


Elia declares the death of the Old Year and remarks on the New Year's coming of age as soon as the last breath is out of the Old Year's body. The New Year throws a big dinner to which all of the Days of the year are invited. The New Year enlists Festivals to help steward the celebration, and debates whether Fasts should be invited. Christmas Day demands that they be invited, on account of Ash Wednesday. All 365 days are invited, and occasionally a place is set for the 29th of February.

After receiving their invitations from the Hours, all of the Days arrive. Elia jokes that the Sunny Days help the Rainy Days dry out their stockings, that Pay Day came late as always, and that Doomsday sent a notice. April Fools Day took the duty of organizing all of the days at the party, creating chaos. The Twenty-First of June is put next to the Twenty-Second on December, and Ash Wednesday is seated next to Christmas, who gets custard all over his beard that resemble icicles.

Elia describes what all the days ate, with the Second of September eating chicken broth and the Last Day of Lent enjoying some pancakes. The Thirtieth of January won't eat any of the meat provided, so he brings his old calf's head, which March Manyweathers finds repulsive. A fight breaks out over which day should receive the death of the King, and April Fool's mediates saying that it should belong with whoever is currently in possession of it. May Day proposes a toast to the health of the New Year, but the party soon breaks out in chaos thanks to the Quarter Days.

After order is restored, the solitary Twenty-Ninth of February declares how glad he is to be at the party after not seeing a face for four years. Ash Wednesday declares the need for a song, and the Days sing a song asking which day is the best day to drink. As they squabble over the answer, Valentine's Day begins to court May until being interrupted by the Dog Days, who are quickly calmed by April Fool's. At the end of the party, the days start to file out, and Valentine's Day and May leave together.


While much of Charles Lamb's work is marked by whimsy, "Rejoicings" arguably ranks as the most whimsical of them all. The essay is a comic flight of fancy, imagining various Days of the year as characters, with Lamb imagining both how they would act at a party and how they might interact. The essay takes the simple move of personifying days, and expands it into a multifaceted metaphorical fantasy. The move can be considered high Romanticism, with Charles imbuing his inanimate subject with so much lively description that those days become actors in his scenario.

How exactly he builds these characters is telling of the author himself. April Fool's is positioned as the master of ceremonies, reflecting Lamb's own sense of humor in putting all of these Days into one place during one party. We also see Lamb's sly irreverence, as he makes the solemn Christian holiday of Ash Wednesday into something of a hapless character and Christmas into glutton. Lamb uses his metaphorical conceit to poke fun at the pomp and circumstance that often marks these holidays.

Imaginative animation of the calendar is a trope which has a rich literary tradition. One of the earliest and most notable examples in English literature comes in Shakespeare's Julius Cesar, when a soothsayer jokes that the Ides of March are coming and that Julius should "beware the Ides of March," with the specific calendar date gaining a kind of identity as something Julius should be quite cautious of. Centuries later, T.S. Elliot would famously begin his landmark poem "The Wasteland," with the lines: "April is the cruelest month, / breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire, stirring / Dull roots with spring rain." Elliot's metaphor operates in similar territory as Lamb's, assigning agency to a month on the calendar, imagining it acting as if it were something other than a mere marker of time's passage.