Companion to Coleridge

In graceful prose not unworthy of his subject, the distinguished English biographer Lord David Cecil paints an endearing portrait of "St. Charles," as Thackeray was later to call Lamb. Saint he was, certainly, and sinner, too. The death of Lamb's mother at the hands of his intermittently mad sister, Mary, caused him lasting grief and was permanently to color his future career with melancholy. He appears at once, upon this dreadful domestic upheaval, to have resigned any hopes or ambitions he may have entertained for himself; from that time forward his life is one of selfless devotion to his unhappy sister.

In his earliest years Lamb suffered a great deal from night fears produced by his vivid imagination. He was sickly as a boy, laboring as he did under the twin impediments of an awkward gait and a persistent stammer, not qualities calculated to win friends among the unruly schoolboys common in the England of the late 18th century; yet, he proved to be popular with his fellows, and his childhood was, on the whole, a happy one. By a stroke of good fortune, Mr. Samuel Salt, who employed Lamb's father as a scrivener, happened to be a governor of Christ's Hospital and arranged for young Charles to be enrolled as a pupil at that venerable institution. There—in the antique costume still donned by the scholars of his day—Lamb first met the youthful Coleridge who was to exert such a profound influence over...

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