The Humour of Charles Lamb

This week’s Random Book of the Week is false advertising but enjoyable nonetheless.

Look at this picture: does this chap seem like a humorous man to you?


Poor sod. To be fair, Charles Lamb didn’t have a particularly enjoyable life (have a look here if you want to know why) so I suggest cutting him some slack on the humour front and turning to the Giant Book of Jokes About Ladies’ Bum Bums* for all one’s giggletime requirements.

If, however, you’ve had enough Ladies’ Bum Bum Jokes and want some keenly-observed and sensitive insight into This Thing Called Life, then Lamb is your man. I imagine that most of the quotes in this miniature leather-bound, gilt-edged book are taken from Lamb’s excellent Essays of Elia,  and, while I’ve picked out the book-related ones for your enjoyment, I would encourage a perusal of Lamb’s essays if you get a chance. He’s not as dour as his portrait would suggest and comes across as quite a sweetie really – ‘the most lovable figure in English literature,’ according to his biographer E. V. Lucas. Who would have thought it, with that mugshot…

He found shelter among books, which insult not; and studies that ask no questions of a youth’s finances.

What a place to be in is an old library! It seems as though all the souls of all the writers, that have bequeathed their labours to these Bodleians, were reposing here, as in some dormitory, or middle state. I do not want to handle, to profane the leaves, their winding-sheets. I could as soon dislodge a shade. I seem to inhale learning, walking amid their foliage; and the odour of their moth-scented covering is fragrant as the first bloom of those scential apples which grew amid the happy orchard.

To one like Elia, whose treasures are rather cased in leather covers than closed in iron coffers, there is a class of alienators more formidable than that which I have touched upon; I mean your borrowers of books -those mutilators of collections, spoilers of the symmetry of shelves, and creators of old books.**

*I made this book title up but am sure it exists, given the patriarchy’s obsession with Ladies’ Bum Bums. I’m expecting to see it in Poundland any day soon.

** You tell ’em Chas. Those borrowers of books do my head in.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. bookheathen says:

    I can remember having a book of Lamb’s essays when I was a schoolboy and actually reading some of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Did you like them as a boy Bookheathen? I only discovered them as an adult when I realized Mr Lamb was the closest my hometown of Edmonton had to a literary hero. I particularly like the essay about books and reading where he quotes a beautiful poem about a poor boy hungry for books, by a ‘quaint poetess’ that is actually his sister Mary.


  3. Jan Hicks says:

    I like the sound of Charles!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He is a very thoughtful read!


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