AD's English Literature : The style of Charles Lamb’s Essays is Gently, Old-fashioned and Irresistibly Attractive

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The style of Charles Lamb’s Essays is Gently, Old-fashioned and Irresistibly Attractive

The style of Charles Lamb’s essays is gently, old-fashioned and irresistibly attractive specially found of old writers. He borrowed unconsciously from the early English dramatists. Burton’s ‘Anatomy of Melancholy’ and Browne’s ‘Religio Medici’ helped him too much to from this style. Montague’s writings impressed him the most. Moreover, Lamb liked to read Greek art and literature. The Essays of Elia are of various kinds. They include literary appreciation, character-sketches, fantasies, personal experiences, reminiscences etc. But they all had the similarity regarding the author’s personal reaction. A very significant question appears whether Essays of Elia project a portrait of Charles Lamb or not. Lamb himself said:
“Let no one receive these narrations of Elia for true turn records. They are in true but shadows of fact-verisimilitudes not verities – or sitting but upon the remote edges and out skirts of history.”
Lamb loved to mystify his readers. This mystification made his language subtle and complicated. By this mystification, Lamb introduced his elder brother john Lamb and his sister Mary Lamb as sins namely –James and Bridget Elia.

Lamb’s style consists of many styles-it is a chemical, not a mechanical mixture. It is his own style. He frequently imitates the Elizabethan writers. He uses Latin words in his essays regularly He use words which are now obsolete. Lamb’s style has ‘humour’ ‘wit’ and ‘fun’. Wit is based on intellect, humour on insight and sympathy, and fun on is our and freshness of body and mind. Humour is very nearly related to pathos which is beautifully expressed in ‘Dream children’. Hugh Walker gives a striking commentary on Lamb’s style:
“Lamb’s style is inseparable from his homour His “whim-whams”, as he called them best expression in the quaint words and antique and multiplied and sometimes far fetched never forested comparisons in which headwalls. Strip Elia of these and he nothing ….of no one else is saying that the style is the man more true than of Lamb. In the deepest sense his style is natural and all his own”.

From personal mood of experience Lamb leads his reader to see life and literature as he saw it the wonderful Combination of personal and universal interests makes Lamb’s essays remarkable. They continue the best tradition of Addison and Steele. Emphasizing the quaintly of self –dramatization in Lamb’s works Craig aptly observes:
“The secret of Lamb’s style is that he was himself an actor forever assuming some role at Oxford, ‘I can here play the gentleman, enact the student’. He was forever pretending to be scholastics philosopher or a seventeenth century preacher dividing the human species in to great new categories …”

Denis Thompson calls Lamb’s style ‘an assumed and easily assumable bag of tricks’, ‘embarrassing confectionary manner’; and he blames Lamb for the degeneration of the essay which lent itself to ‘feak personality’, ‘studied irresponsibility’, and a cultivation of literary mannerisms to hide emptiness of matter. Walter Pater says about Lamb’s essays:
“WE know that beneath this blithe surface there is something of the domestic horror, of the beautiful heroism, and devotedness too, of old Greek Tragedy”. Though his essays are brilliant, Lamb’s popularity in the twentieth century has diminished a lot.


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An English Teacher;    M. A.(English) , D. Ed., B. Ed., UGC- NET Qualified

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