Charles Lamb 

Portrait of Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb was an English essayist and poet and friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He was born on 12th February 1775 in London, England and died on 27th December 1834 in Edmonton, Middlesex, England aged 58.

Major Works

“Blank Verse” (1798)
“A Tale of Rosamund Gray” “Old Blind Margaret” (1798)
“John Woodvil” (1802)
“Tales from Shakespeare” (1807)
“The Adventures of Ulysses” (1808)
“Specimens of English Dramatic Poets who Lived About the Time of Shakespeare” (1808)

Biography Timeline

Charles Lamb was born on 12th February 1775 in London, England. He was the son of a scrivener who was confidential clerk to Samuel Salt one of the bencher’s of the Inner Temple. He was educated at Christ’s Hospital in London, where he met and became a lifelong friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

1789: He goes to work as a clerk at the South Sea House in London.

1792: He transfers to India House. The death of Mr Salt leaves the family in reduced circumstances

1796: His sister Mary kills his mother in a fit of madness with a table knife. (Lamb looked after her for the rest of her life and she was to be his constant companion and the “Cousin Briget” of many of his essays). He contributes four sonnets to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s  “Poems on Various Subjects”.

1798: He publishes “Blank Verse” in collaboration with his friend Charles Lloyd (of Lloyd’s Bank fame). This includes “The Old Familiar Faces” which became one of his best loved poems.

1807: Charles and Mary move around from one set of lodgings to another and most of his literary outpourings bring neither fame nor much needed money. He is asked by William Godwin to help contribute to his “Juvenile Library”. To this he contributes the work by which he was to become famous, “Tales from Shakespeare”. (Charles worked on the Tragedies whilst Mary worked on the comedies).

1808: They again collaborate on a work for Children “The Adventures of Ulysses”.

1812: He publishes works on Hogarth and Shakespeare which appeare in the journal “The Reflector” edited by Leigh Hunt.

1818: His many works for various publications were brought together in the “Works of Charles Lamb” and because of this he is asked by the “London Magazine” to contribute a series of essays. These essays, under the pseudonym “Elia” (named after a fellow Clerk in India House) were to secure his fame once and for all.

1820-25: First series of “Essays of “Elia”.

1823: He leaves London and takes up a cottage in Islington now he is earning more money. Charles and Mary take with them Emma Isola a young orphan whom they looked after until she married.

1825: He retires from India House on a pension of two thirds of his salary. The Lambs go to live at Enfield and then Edmonton.

1833: Emma Isola marries the publisher E. Moxon. “The Last Essays of Elia” are completed.

Charles Lamb died of a streptococcal infection from a wound he suffered after a fall in the street on 27th December 1834 at Edmonton, Middlesex, England. He was buried at All Saint’s Churchyard in Edmonton, London, England.

See his page on Britain Unlimited for further information