Dream-Child

A Life of Charles Lamb

Eric G. Wilson

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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.

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.

“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
 
ISBN: 9780300230802
Publication Date: January 4, 2022
544 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
33 b/w illus.