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A Life of Charles Lamb

Eric G. Wilson



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Yale University
04 March 2022
An in-depth look into the life of Romantic essayist Charles Lamb and the legacy of his work
A pioneer of urban Romanticism, essayist Charles Lamb (1775-1834) found inspiration in London's markets, theaters, prostitutes, and bookshops. He prized the city's literary scene, too, where he was a star wit. He counted among his admirers Mary Shelley, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His friends valued in his conversation what distinguished his writing style: a highly original blend of irony, whimsy, and melancholy.

Eric G. Wilson captures Lamb's strange charm in this meticulously researched and engagingly written biography. He demonstrates how Lamb's humor helped him cope with a life-defining tragedy: in a fit of madness, his sister Mary murdered their mother. Arranging to care for her himself, Lamb saved her from the gallows. Delightful when sane, Mary became Charles's muse, and she collaborated with him on children's books. In exploring Mary's presence in Charles's darkly comical essays, Wilson also shows how Lamb reverberates in today's experimental literature.
Imprint:   Yale University
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm,  Spine: 37mm
Weight:   936g
ISBN:   9780300230802
ISBN 10:   030023080X
Pages:   544
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Eric G. Wilson is Thomas H. Pritchard Professor of English at Wake Forest University. He is the author of several books, including Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck and Against Happiness.

Reviews for Dream-Child: A Life of Charles Lamb

Eric G. Wilson's excellent Dream-Child, the first full-length biography since [E.V.] Lucas's in 1905, marks an important staging post on [Lamb's] road back to respectability. -Clare Bucknell, New York Review of Books [An] electrifying portrait of Charles Lamb. -New Yorker A literary life in the fullest sense . . . this biography is alive all over . . . a huge and eloquent book. -Australian Book Review A narrative rich in complexity and nuance...One of the strengths of Wilson's work is that he makes Lamb unfamiliar, as he constantly recurs to the unstable explorations of authorship and identity that run through Lamb's work . . . [Wilson] is a superb reader of Lamb . . . Dream-Child brings Lamb's mind alive through his own words and is at its best when it cleaves closely to Lamb's writing. -Daisy Hay, Times Literary Supplement Needle by needle, point by point, Wilson uncovers the social scaffolding of Lamb's literary genius. -Madoc Cairns, The Tablet While this book is based on rigorous scholarship, it does not assume extensive prior knowledge. Instead, it serves as a good introduction for non-specialists and will hopefully encourage more to seek out Lamb's works...For all his subject's evasiveness, Wilson helps us see behind the mask, capturing Lamb's authentic and somewhat tortured character. -Edward Weech, Literary Review [Wilson] pins Lamb down by becoming Lamb-like himself. His biography is important because it is written in this spirit of becoming; it goes therefore a little headlong, almost beyond the genre; and it urges us, in sum, to explore for ourselves the twilit streets of the London of Lamb's spirit, bedimmed with the dark shapes of sanity, and the softer shadows of insanity that stalk his peculiar but enduring genius. -Adam Neikirk, Review 19 Wilson combines shrewd analysis with original insights and discoveries to provide a valuable addition to the existing corpus of Lamb criticism. -Duncan Wu, Georgetown University A highly evocative and deeply informed life-the first for a century-of one of the most complex and sympathetic literary personalities of his time and one of the greatest English essayists of any age. -Seamus Perry, University of Oxford We have waited a long time for the definitive full-scale scholarly biography of Charles Lamb--master of the witty and winding essay--but now it has arrived. Eric Wilson's Dream-Child is not only a labor of love for a lovable figure, but also a vivid and skillful placing of Lamb in the context of Romanticism and early nineteenth-century London life. -Sir Jonathan Bate, author of Radical Wordsworth

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