E212: British Literature since 1760

Charles Lamb Study Questions

Al Drake. 520 Hum. T/Th. 7:30-8:30 | ajdrake@ajdrake.com

"Christ's Hospital Five-and-Thirty Years Ago"

1. Lamb's essay explores childhood--an important period in romantic literature. What seems to underlie Lamb's interest in the topic--that is, childhood considered in its own right and in relation to adulthood? Is Lamb's exploration of early experience characteristically "romantic" as you understand that term? Explain.

2. The Norton editors point out that the "I" of this essay combines the experiences of Coleridge and Lamb. What further reasons can you find for this combinatory device beyond what the editors say? What does such a combination suggest, for example, about Lamb's attitude towards the autobiographical dimension of his essays?

3. It has often been said that Lamb's style is elaborate, that he likes a well-turned phrase and the occasional recondite allusion. How does this affect your view of the narrator as an individual honestly relating personal details and offering personal views? Why might an essayist seek out such finely tuned phrases rather than relating things in the most straightforward manner?

4. How does the early nineteenth-century "Christ's Hospital" fare as a place of education under Lamb's mature scrutiny? What did children learn, both in an academic and non-academic or social sense, from the Rev. James Boyer and Mr. Matthew Field?

5. Does the essay's conclusion cap the subject definitively by offering final insights on the value of what has been examined, or does it leave matters open-ended? Explain your response. (One reason to consider this question is that it helps clarify the relationship posited between author and readers.)

Edition: Abrams, M.H. et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2. Seventh edition. New York: Norton, 2000.