Charles Lamb has been acclaimed by common consent as the Prince among English essayist. He occupies a unique position in the history of English essay. William Hazlitt, himself a great essayist, praised Lamb in high terms: “The prose essays, under the signature of Elia form the most delightful section amongst Lamb’s works. They traverse a peculiar field of observation, sequestered from general interest, and they are composed in a spirit too delicate and unobtrusive to catch the ear of the noisy crowd, clamouring for strong sensations. This retiring delicacy itself, the pensiveness chequered by gleams of the fanciful, and the humour that is touched with cross-lights of pathos, together with the picturesque quaintness of the objects casually described, whether men, or things, or usages; and in the rear of all this the constant recurrence to ancient recollections and to decaying forms of household life, as things retiring before the tumult of new and revolutionary generations – these traits in combination communicate to the papers a grace and strength of originality which nothing in any literature approaches, whether for degree or kind of excellence, except the most felicitous papers of Addison, such as those on Sir Roger de Coverley and some other sin the same vein of compostion.” Hugh Walker also applauds the genius of Lamb, “There are essayists like Bacon, of more massive greatness, and other like Sir Thomas Browne, who can attain loftier heights of eloquence, but there is no other who has in an equal degree the power to charm. If an attempt be made to discover the secret of this power, it will be found that first and chief among the factors contributory to it is the incomparable sweetness of disposition which Lamb not only possessed but had a unique gift of communicating to his writings.” These verdicts of such critics are a sufficient testimony to the greatness of the genius of Charles Lamb. In fact, Lamb’s essays are popular... [continues]
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