Charles Lamb’s Prose Style
[Place of Charles Lamb among English essayists- two qualities that distinct his essays- personal and imaginary- humor filled with pathos- long sentences- use of old fashioned words-imitation of Elizabethan writers]
Charles Lamb is considered as one of the best essayists in English literature. He has published a variety of essays on various themes under the pseudonym Elia. His best essays are collected in Essays of Elia (1823) and The Last Essays of Elia (1833) which secured a place for him among the best prose writers of the language. Lambs essays are remarkable as it portrays the life of the people of his time. Two of the most distinctive features of his essays are the use of personal elements and the imaginative characters. Differing from all other essayists, Lamb’s essays are deeply personal and they present anecdotes from his memories. Lamb placed his life, longing and the life of the people as the central concern of his essays. The charm of Lamb’s essays lie in its ability to encompass the personal and the serious with the flavor of imagination. Dramatic characterization marks another peculiarity of his style. In many of his essays, he creates imaginary characters and weaves the story. For example, in essays like Dream Children: A reverie and The South Sea House he has introduced remarkable characters. In Dream Children, he imagines his unborn children Alice and John. The presentation is so captivating that the reader considers them as real until they declare that they are unreal. Similarly, in The South Sea House, Lamb introduces so many workmen at South Sea house who are imaginary.
Humor and pathos are the key tone of Lamb’s essays. Though his portrayal of characters is humorous, the undercurrent of pathos can be felt by the readers. Almost all significant essays of lamb have been derived from his tragic experiences which he disguised in humor. Any sensible reader of Lamb may be caught by the underlying flow of pathos.
Lamb’s use of language is characterized by the use of long, unwinding sentences. He plays with language like ‘the wind plays with the leaves’. Just like Elizabethan writers, he also makes use of alliteration and compound words. Another noteworthy element of his essay is the use of old fashioned words and the quotes from various texts.
In a nutshell, Lamb’s prose style encompasses personal, imaginary tales in long sentences with is attractive in its humorous tone. Though the imitation of Elizabethan prose writers can be found in some of his essays, themes, characterization and humorous tone of the essays is his own.