III Sem M.A.
Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit Kalady
Charles Lamb is generally considered the master of personal essays of which Montaigne is the greatest exponent. His essays are collected in Essays of Elia and Last Essays of Elia. In literary history he is remembered as the Prince of English essayists. His essays are marked by self- revelation, humour and pathos, and a conversational style. Lamb delights the reader with his personal details, genial humour, amiable personality and sweetness of disposition. His range of subject matter is amazingly diverse.
Personal essay as a genre evolved from a curious convergence of German and English traditions of essay writing. The German tradition reached English literary domain through the influence of Montaigne who has been considered a literary model since the time of Bacon. The German tradition of essay as a critique of ideology or an expression of commitment blends with the English tradition of the essay as a paradigm of personal freedom in creativity manifest in the history of democracy. The creative insights of Lamb’s personal essays derive its critical and innovative impulse equally from these traditions which superimpose in the genric diversities of English essays. Lamb’s essays are in fact social criticisms which resist and even subvert the social and cultural structures that restrict the choices of individuals. As the narrator he puts in formidable agency to resist the hierarchical structures that meddle with individual liberty.