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62 Works of Charles Lamb

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Pericles, Prince of Tyre, became a voluntary exile from his dominions, to avert the dreadful calamities which Antiochus, the wicked emperor of Greece, threatened to bring upon his subjects and city of Tyre, in revenge for a discovery which the prince had made of a shocking deed which the emperor had done in secret; as […]

Sebastian and his sister Viola, a young gentleman and lady of Messaline, were twins, and (which was accounted a great wonder) from their birth they so much resembled each other, that, but for the difference in their dress, they could not be known apart. They were both born in one hour, and in one hour […]

Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, becoming a widow by the sudden death of King Hamlet, in less than two months after his death married his brother Claudius, which was noted by all people at the time for a strange act of indiscretion, or unfeelingness, or worse: for this Claudius did no ways resemble her late husband […]

The Taming Of The Shrew

Story type: Literature

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Katharine, the Shrew, was the eldest daughter of Baptista, a rich gentleman of Padua. She was a lady of such an ungovernable spirit and fiery temper, such a loud-tongued scold, that she was known in Padua by no other name than Katharine the Shrew. It seemed very unlikely, indeed impossible, that any gentleman would ever […]

The Comedy Of Errors

Story type: Literature

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The states of Syracuse and Ephesus being at variance, there was a cruel law made at Ephesus, ordaining that if any merchant of Syracuse was seen in the city of Ephesus, he was to be put to death, unless he could pay a thousand marks for the ransom of his life. AEgeon, an old merchant […]

There lived in the city of Verona two young gentlemen, whose names were Valentine and Proteus, between whom a firm and uninterrupted friendship had long subsisted. They pursued their studies together, and their hours of leisure were always passed in each other’s company, except when Proteus visited a lady he was in love with; and […]

The Merchant Of Venice

Story type: Literature

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Shylock, the Jew, lived at Venice: he was an usurer, who had amassed an immense fortune by lending money at great interest to Christian merchants. Shylock, being a hard-hearted man, exacted the payment of the money he lent with such severity that he was much disliked by all good men, and particularly by Antonio, a […]

The Tempest

Story type: Literature

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There was a certain island in the sea, the only inhabitants of which were an old man, whose name was Prospero, and his daughter Miranda, a very beautiful young lady. She came to this island so young, that she had no memory of having seen any other human face than her father’s. They lived in […]

There was a law in the city of Athens which gave to its citizens the power of compelling their daughters to marry whomsoever they pleased; for upon a daughter’s refusing to marry the man her father had chosen to be her husband, the father was empowered by this law to cause her to be put […]

The Winter’s Tale

Story type: Literature

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Leontes, King of Sicily, and his queen, the beautiful and virtuous Hermione, once lived in the greatest harmony together. So happy was Leontes in the love of this excellent lady, that he had no wish ungratified, except that he sometimes desired to see again, and to present to his queen, his old companion and school-fellow, […]

Of all the actors who flourished in my time–a melancholy phrase if taken aright, reader–Bensley had most of the swell of soul, was greatest in the delivery of heroic conceptions, the emotions consequent upon the presentment of a great idea to the fancy. He had the true poetical enthusiasm–the rarest faculty among players. None that […]

The artificial Comedy, or Comedy of manners, is quite extinct on our stage. Congreve and Farquhar show their heads once in seven years only to be exploded and put down instantly. The times cannot bear them. Is it for a few wild speeches, an occasional licence of dialogue? I think not altogether. The business of […]

I do not know a more mortifying thing than to be conscious of a foregone delight, with a total oblivion of the person and manner which conveyed it. In dreams I often stretch and strain after the countenance of Edwin, whom I once saw in Peeping Tom. I cannot catch a feature of him. He […]

The Wedding

Story type: Essay

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I do not know when I have been better pleased than at being invited last week to be present at the wedding of a friend’s daughter. I like to make one at these ceremonies, which to us old people give back our youth in a manner, and restore our gayest season, in the remembrance of […]

I chanced upon the prettiest, oddest, fantastical thing of a dream the other night, that you shall hear of. I had been reading the “Loves of the Angels,” and went to bed with my head full of speculations, suggested by that extraordinary legend. It had given birth to innumerable conjectures; and, I remember, the last […]

Old China

Story type: Essay

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I have an almost feminine partiality for old china. When I go to see any great house, I inquire for the china-closet, and next for the picture gallery. I cannot defend the order of preference, but by saying, that we have all some taste or other, of too ancient a date to admit of our […]

I.–THAT A BULLY IS ALWAYS A COWARD This axiom contains a principle of compensation, which disposes us to admit the truth of it. But there is no safe trusting to dictionaries and definitions. We should more willingly fall in with this popular language, if we did not find brutality sometimes awkwardly coupled with valour in […]

IN A LETTER TO R—- S—-, ESQ. Though in some points of doctrine, and perhaps of discipline I am diffident of lending a perfect assent to that church which you have so worthily historified, yet may the ill time never come to me, when with a chilled heart, or a portion of irreverent sentiment, I […]

Where were ye, Nymphs, when the remorseless deepClos’d o’er the head of your loved Lycidas? I do not know when I have experienced a stranger sensation, than on seeing my old friend G.D., who had been paying me a morning visit a few Sundays back, at my cottage at Islington, upon taking leave, instead of […]

Sydney’s Sonnets–I speak of the best of them–are among the very best of their sort. They fall below the plain moral dignity, the sanctity, and high yet modest spirit of self-approval, of Milton, in his compositions of a similar structure. They are in truth what Milton, censuring the Arcadia, says of that work (to which […]

Dan Stuart once told us, that he did not remember that he ever deliberately walked into the Exhibition at Somerset House in his life. He might occasionally have escorted a party of ladies across the way that were going in; but he never went in of his own head. Yet the office of the Morning […]

Hogarth excepted, can we produce any one painter within the last fifty years, or since the humour of exhibiting began, that has treated a story imaginatively? By this we mean, upon whom his subject has so acted, that it has seemed to direct him–not to be arranged by him? Any upon whom its leading or […]

Captain Jackson

Story type: Essay

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Among the deaths in our obituary for this month, I observe with concern “At his cottage on the Bath road, Captain Jackson.” The name and attribution are common enough; but a feeling like reproach persuades me, that this could have been no other in fact than my dear old friend, who some five-and-twenty years ago […]

Sera tamen respexit Libertas. VIRGIL. A Clerk I was in London gay. O’KEEFE. If peradventure, Reader, it has been thy lot to waste the golden years of thy life–thy shining youth–in the irksome confinement of an office; to have thy prison days prolonged through middle age down to decrepitude and silver hairs, without hope of […]

It is an ordinary criticism, that my Lord Shaftesbury, and Sir William Temple, are models of the genteel style in writing. We should prefer saying–of the lordly, and the gentlemanly. Nothing can be more unlike than the inflated finical rhapsodies of Shaftesbury, and the plain natural chit-chat of Temple. The man of rank is discernible […]

Barbara S—-

Story type: Essay

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On the noon of the 14th of November, 1743 or 4, I forget which it was, just as the clock had struck one, Barbara S—-, with her accustomed punctuality ascended the long rambling staircase, with awkward interposed landing-places, which led to the office, or rather a sort of box with a desk in it, whereat […]

Ellistoniana

Story type: Essay

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My acquaintance with the pleasant creature, whose loss we all deplore, was but slight. My first introduction to E., which afterwards ripened into an acquaintance a little on this side of intimacy, was over a counter of the Leamington Spa Library, then newly entered upon by a branch of his family. E., whom nothing misbecame–to […]

To mind the inside of a book is to entertain one’s self with the forced product of another man’s brain. Now I think a man of quality and breeding may be much amused with the natural sprouts of his own. Lord Foppington in the Relapse. An ingenious acquaintance of my own was so much struck […]

I am fond of passing my vacations (I believe I have said so before) at one or other of the Universities. Next to these my choice would fix me at some woody spot, such as the neighbourhood of Henley affords in abundance, upon the banks of my beloved Thames. But somehow or other my cousin […]

So far from the position holding true, that great wit (or genius, in our modern way of speaking), has a necessary alliance with insanity, the greatest wits, on the contrary, will ever be found to be the sanest writers. It is impossible for the mind to conceive of a mad Shakspeare. The greatness of wit, […]

This poor gentleman, who for some months past had been in a declining way, hath at length paid his final tribute to nature. To say truth, it is time he were gone. The humour of the thing, if there was ever much in it, was pretty well exhausted; and a two years’ and a half […]

I do not know a pleasure more affecting than to range at will over the deserted apartments of some fine old family mansion. The traces of extinct grandeur admit of a better passion than envy: and contemplations on the great and good, whom we fancy in succession to have been its inhabitants, weave for us […]

Poor Relations

Story type: Essay

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A poor relation–is the most irrelevant thing in nature,–a piece of impertinent correspondency,–an odious approximation,–a haunting conscience,–a preposterous shadow, lengthening in the noontide of your prosperity,–an unwelcome remembrancer,–a perpetually recurring mortification,–a drain on your purse,–a more intolerable dun upon your pride,–a drawback upon success,–a rebuke to your rising,–a stain in your blood,–a blot on your […]

Stage Illusion

Story type: Essay

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A play is said to be well or ill acted in proportion to the scenical illusion produced. Whether such illusion can in any case be perfect, is not the question. The nearest approach to it, we are told, is, when the actor appears wholly unconscious of the presence of spectators. In tragedy–in all which is […]

Joyousest of once embodied spirits, whither at length hast thou flown? to what genial region are we permitted to conjecture that thou has flitted. Art thou sowing thy WILD OATS yet (the harvest time was still to come with thee) upon casual sands of Avernus? or art thou enacting ROVER (as we would gladlier think) […]

As a single man, I have spent a good deal of my time in noting down the infirmities of Married People, to console myself for those superior pleasures, which they tell me I have lost by remaining as I am. I cannot say that the quarrels of men and their wives ever made any great […]

The casual sight of an old Play Bill, which I picked up the other day–I know not by what chance it was preserved so long–tempts me to call to mind a few of the Players, who make the principal figure in it. It presents the cast of parts in the Twelfth Night, at the old […]

The artificial Comedy, or Comedy of manners, is quite extinct on our stage. Congreve and Farquhar show their heads once in seven years only, to be exploded and put down instantly. The times cannot bear them. Is it for a few wild speeches, an occasional license of dialogue? I think not altogether. The business of […]

Not many nights ago I had come home from seeing this extraordinary performer in Cockletop; and when I retired to my pillow, his whimsical image still stuck by me, in a manner as to threaten sleep. In vain I tried to divest myself of it, by conjuring up the most opposite associations. I resolved to […]

Children love to listen to stories about their elders, when they were children; to stretch their imagination to the conception of a traditionary great-uncle, or grandame, whom they never saw. It was in this spirit that my little ones crept about me the other evening to hear about their great-grandmother Field, who lived in a […]

IN A LETTER TO B.F. ESQ. AT SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES My dear F.–When I think how welcome the sight of a letter from the world where you were born must be to you in that strange one to which you have been transplanted, I feel some compunctious visitings at my long silence. But, indeed, […]

The all-sweeping besom of societarian reformation–your only modern Alcides’ club to rid the time of its abuses–is uplift with many-handed sway to extirpate the last fluttering tatters of the bugbear MENDICITY from the metropolis. Scrips, wallets, bags–staves, dogs, and crutches–the whole mendicant fraternity with all their baggage are fast posting out of the purlieus of […]

I like to meet a sweep–understand me–not a grown sweeper–old chimney-sweepers are by no means attractive–but one of those tender novices, blooming through their first nigritude, the maternal washings not quite effaced from the cheek–such as come forth with the dawn, or somewhat earlier, with their little professional notes sounding like the peep peep of […]

Mankind, says a Chinese manuscript, which my friend M. was obliging enough to read and explain to me, for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw, clawing or biting it from the living animal, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day. This period is not obscurely hinted at by their great […]

Bridget Elia has been my housekeeper for many a long year. I have obligations to Bridget, extending beyond the period of memory. We house together, old bachelor and maid, in a sort of double singleness; with such tolerable comfort, upon the whole, that I, for one, find in myself no sort of disposition to go […]

In comparing modern with ancient manners, we are pleased to compliment ourselves upon the point of gallantry; a certain obsequiousness, or deferential respect, which we are supposed to pay to females, as females. I shall believe that this principle actuates our conduct, when I can forget, that in the nineteenth century of the era from […]

I was born, and passed the first seven years of my life, in the Temple. Its church, its halls, its gardens, its fountain, its river, I had almost said–for in those young years, what was this king of rivers to me but a stream that watered our pleasant places?–these are of my oldest recollections. I […]

The custom of saying grace at meals had, probably, its origin in the early times of the world, and the hunter-state of man, when dinners were precarious things, and a full meal was something more than a common blessing; when a belly-full was a windfall, and looked like a special providence. In the shouts and […]

My First Play

Story type: Essay

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At the north end of Cross-court there yet stands a portal, of some architectural pretensions, though reduced to humble use, serving at present for an entrance to a printing-office. This old door-way, if you are young, reader, you may not know was the identical pit entrance to old Drury–Garrick’s Drury–all of it that is left. […]

My reading has been lamentably desultory and immethodical. Odd, out of the way, old English plays, and treatises, have supplied me with most of my notions, and ways of feeling. In every thing that relates to science, I am a whole Encyclopaedia behind the rest of the world. I should have scarcely cut a figure […]

I am of a constitution so general, that it consorts and sympathized with all things, I have no antipathy, or rather idiosyncracy in any thing. Those national repugnancies do not touch me, nor do I behold with prejudice the French, Italian, Spaniard, or Dutch.–Religio Medici. That the author of the Religio Medici, mounted upon the […]

We are too hasty when we set down our ancestors in the gross for fools, for the monstrous inconsistencies (as they seem to us) involved in their creed of witchcraft. In the relations of this visible world we find them to have been as rational, and shrewd to detect an historic anomaly, as ourselves. But […]

My Relations

Story type: Essay

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I am arrived at that point of life, at which a man may account it a blessing, as it is a singularity, if he have either of his parents surviving. I have not that felicity–and sometimes think feelingly of a passage in Browne’s Christian Morals, where he speaks of a man that hath lived sixty […]

“A clear fire, a clean hearth, and the rigour of the game.” This was the celebrated wish of old Sarah Battle (now with God) who, next to her devotions, loved a good game at whist. She was none of your lukewarm gamesters, your half and half players, who have no objection to take a hand, […]

The compliments of the season to my worthy masters, and a merry first of April to us all! Many happy returns of this day to you–and you–and you, Sir–nay, never frown, man, nor put a long face upon the matter. Do not we know one another? what need of ceremony among friends? we have all […]

I have no ear.– Mistake me not, reader,–nor imagine that I am by nature destitute of those exterior twin appendages, hanging ornaments, and (architecturally speaking) handsome volutes to the human capital. Better my mother had never borne me.–I am, I think, rather delicately than copiously provided with those conduits; and I feel no disposition to […]

Still-born Silence! thou that artFlood-gate of the deeper heart!Offspring of a heavenly kind!Frost o’ the mouth, and thaw o’ the mind!Secrecy’s confident, and heWho makes religion mystery!Admiration’s speaking’st tongue!Leave, thy desert shades among,Reverend hermits’ hallowed cells,Where retired devotion dwells!With thy enthusiasms come,Seize our tongues, and strike us dumb![1] Reader, would’st thou know what true peace […]

Reader, in thy passage from the Bank–where thou hast been receiving thy half-yearly dividends (supposing thou art a lean annuitant like myself)–to the Flower Pot, to secure a place for Dalston, or Shacklewell, or some other thy suburban retreat northerly,–didst thou never observe a melancholy looking, handsome, brick and stone edifice, to the left–where Threadneedle-street […]

Casting a preparatory glance at the bottom of this article–as the wary connoisseur in prints, with cursory eye (which, while it reads, seems as though it read not,) never fails to consult the quis sculpsit in the corner, before he pronounces some rare piece to be a Vivares, or a Woollet–methinks I hear you exclaim, […]

In Mr. Lamb’s “Works,” published a year or two since, I find a magnificent eulogy on my old school,[1] such as it was, or now appears to him to have been, between the years 1782 and 1789. It happens, very oddly, that my own standing at Christ’s was nearly corresponding with his; and, with all […]

The human species, according to the best theory I can form of it, is composed of two distinct races, the men who borrow, and the men who lend. To these two original diversities may be reduced all those impertinent classifications of Gothic and Celtic tribes, white men, black men, red men. All the dwellers upon […]

THE OLD YEAR being dead, and the NEW YEAR coming of age, wh: he does by Calendar Law, as soon as the breath is out of the old gentleman’s body, nothing would serve the young spark but he must give a dinner upon the occasion, to wh: all the Days in the year were invited. […]