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as a clerk by one of the Benchers; who obtained for Charles a presentation to Christ's Hospital, which! he entered when he was seven years old, completing his education there when he was fifteen. He was a studious, timid, and retiring boy, and he joined in few sports, and made few intimate friends. One of these few was Coleridge, who even in those early days gave ample promise of great attainments; and the friendship then formed continued in after years. The two descriptive essays,
" Recollections of Christ's Hospital,” which in a limited sense eulogises the foundation and the scheme of the school; and “Christ's Hospital, Five and Thirty Years Ago,” in which “Elia "in 1820 gave his personal reminiscences, are remarkable examples of the subtle change of style and treatment which Lamb could affect. The description by “Elia," written after the “Recollections” had appeared, professes to be an answer to the “Eulogy” published in Mr. Lamb's works. It presents to the reader the other side of the shield, and introduces the truer picture of what the School was in 1782—1789, when the boys were under-fed, overflogged, over-fagged, ill-treated, and neglected. Now that Christ's Hospital, or the Blue-Coat School, as it has existed in Newgate Street for so many years, will soon be no more than a name in the locality ; these essays will be of still greater significance, as vivid records of a past age, and (happily) of a long past experience. On leaving school Charles obtained an appointment in the South Sea House, from which, through the influence of his patron, he went to the India House. He would have obtained an exhibition at school, admitting him to college, where he would have had to enter the Church, but his stammering speech
was an insuperable obstacle to such an avocation. His father having become an almost helpless invalid, mentally as well as physically afflicted, his mother was occupied in attending to him; and, as the family was in very straitened circumstances, their chief means of support was Charles' salary, and the money earned by the needlework of his sister Mary, who was ten years older than Charles, and had always been his faithful friend and loving companion. In these early days he had suffered from temporary mental disturbance, but had recovered; the disorder only leaving its evidences in after life by occasional fits of melancholy and depression; but when he was twenty-one years old a terrible blow fell upon the household. Mary Lamb, quiet, enduring, selfeffacing, in a sudden fit of insanity, inflicted fatal injuries on the mother whom she loved, and had to be placed under restraint. Charles, who was distracted with grief and sorrow, found consolation in the kindly sympathy and religious sentiments of his friend Coleridge. Mary Lamb recovered, and Charles had already determined to devote himself to the care and protection of his sister. After their father's death they continued to live together. Mary Lamb was distinguished for quiet common-sense and a very decided literary faculty, which enabled her to help her brother, to write some very admirable verses of her own, and to contribute a considerable portion of the “Tales from Shakespeare,” with which her name is so closely associated. But she was still subject to fits of mental aberration, and at such times was placed under kind and judicious care, by her brother. She knew when an accession of insanity was approaching; and the brother and sister would walk across the fields from their lodgings at Islington, weeping together as they went, that Mary might be temporarily consigned to the asylum until her recovery, when she returned to him, who, with a quiet and almost unconscious heroism, had made her the first consideration of his life. There is reason to believe that he relinquished the hopes he had once entertained in a youthful attachment, but it is probable that apart from the duty of taking upon himself the charge of his sister, his apprehension that the malady from which she suffered might be hereditary, would have been to him an insurmountable barrier to marriage.
Though Charles Lamb lived principally in London or its suburbs, his habits were comparatively quiet and secluded. In their humble home he and his sister entertained many intimate and distinguished friends, including Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, Charles Lloyd, Godwin, Hazlitt, and Leigh Hunt, with the latter of whom Lamb had afterwards a close literary relation, contributing some of his best literary and dramatic criticisms to the Examiner and other papers, including the ever famous “Essays of Elia,” to the London Magazine, and to the Indicator, which was also under Hunt's editorship.
Lamb's earliest dramatic work was a tragedy entitled “ John Woodvil,” published in 1802, which, with some of his later productions, shows how deeply he had been influenced by the style and manner of the early English poets; but it is to his earlier and to his later productions, his poems pure and simple, that we must go to see, as it were, the heart and character of “gentle-hearted Charles,” as Coleridge called him. Some of the earlier, including “The Grandame," "A Vision of Repentance,” and “Old Familiar Faces,” were written in 1796—1797, and published in a volume with poems by Coleridge. The lines “ On an Infant dying as soon as born,” refer to the brief existence of the first-born of his friend Tom Hood. In 1826, Charles Lamb retired from the India House with a pension sufficient for the maintenance of himself and his sister; and he added somewhat to his resources by his contributions to journalism and by his poems. He died at Edmonton, on the 27th of December, 1834, in consequence of a slight injury, caused by a fall over a stone as he was walking in the London Road. His sister survived him only a short time. As an original humourist he has never been surpassed, and this quality, no less than the depth of sensibility and pathetic power, in his poems attests that the mild jocularity of Wordsworth, who called him "Lamb, the frolic and the gentle,” was not misplaced.
1.- THE GRANDAME.
On the green hill top, Hard by the house of prayer, a modest roof, And not distinguish'd from its neighbour barn, Save by a slender-tapering length of spire, The Grandame sleeps : a plain stone barely tells The name and date to the chance passenger. For lowly born was she, and long had eat Well-earn'd, the bread of service;-her's was else A mounting spirit, one that entertain'd Scorn of base action, deed dishonorable, Or aught unseemly. I remember well Her reverend image: I remember too, With what a zeal she serv'd her Master's house; And how the prattling tongue of garrulous age Delighted to recount the oft-told tale Or anecdote domestic. Wise she was, And wond'rous skilled in genealogies, And could in apt and voluble terms discourse Of births, of titles, and alliances ; Of marriages, and intermarriages; Relationships remote, or near of kin; Of friends offended, family disgraced, Maiden high born, but wayward, disobeying Parental strict injunctions, and regardless