Charles Lamb Index

Charles Lamb and his sister Mary Lamb wrote shorter versions of many classic tales, some of which are referenced as introductions to the full-length original classics assigned in the Excellence in Literature curriculum.

Charles Lamb index

Charles Lamb NPG 507

Charles Lamb by William Hazlitt
oil on canvas, 1804 (NPG 507)
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Creative Commons License

The Adventures of Ulysses

Tales from Shakespeare

The Tempest

King Lear

Of King Lear, Charles Lamb wrote that “to see Lear acted, to see an old man tottering about the stage with a walking-stick, turned out of doors by his daughters on a rainy night, has nothing in it but what is painful and disgusting” yet “while we read it, we see not Lear but we are Lear, — we are in his mind, we are sustained by a grandeur which baffles the malice of daughters and storms.” (Excerpted from his 1811 essay “On the Tragedies of Shakespeare.”)


About Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb (1775 – 1834) was an English essayist, poet, and antiquarian, best remembered for the children’s book Tales from Shakespeare, which he co-authored with his sister, Mary Lamb (1764–1847). Lamb was at the center of a major literary circle in England, with distinguished friends such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and William Hazlitt. His biographer, E. V. Lucas, described him as “the most lovable figure in English literature”.

Below is an example of the poetry he and his sister Mary composed and published together in Poems for Children.


By Charles and Mary Lamb

Anger in its time and place
May assume a kind of grace.
It must have some reason in it,
And not last beyond a minute.
If to further lengths it go,
It does into malice grow.
‘Tis the difference that we see
‘Twixt the Serpent and the Bee.
If the latter you provoke,
It inflicts a hasty stroke,
Puts you to some little pain,
But it never stings again.
Close in tufted bush or brake
Lurks the poison-swelled snake,
Nursing up his cherish’d wrath.
In the purlieus of his path,
In the cold, or in the warm,
Mean him good, or mean him harm,
Whensoever fate may bring you,
The vile snake will always sting you.

If you’d like to learn more about this author, check out EIL’s Charles Lamb biography.

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