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This I Believe 2 Essays Of Elia

A humble clerk with the East India Company for much of his life, Charles Lamb (1775-1834) came into his own writing essays "under the phantom cloud of Elia". This assumed name, borrowed from another clerk, enabled him to put the full resources of his wit at the service of a form to which he was temperamentally suited, and made his own.

Tragic domestic circumstances bound Charles to his sister Mary, with whom he lived "in a sort of double singleness", after she stabbed their mother to death in a fit of madness. Contrasting his tastes in reading with those of his sister, who "must have a story – well, ill, or indifferently told", Lamb confides that "out-of-the-way humours and opinion – heads with some diverting twist in them – the oddities of authorship please me most". Montaigne, whose presence hovers over the Essays of Elia (1823), would have approved.

Lamb's nimble, cadenced prose, with its occasional antiquated turn of phrase, exhibits the same curious mixture of erudition and colloquialism, of seriousness and jest, as that of his French predecessor. For his unruly "little sketches", Lamb, like Montaigne, quarries his own experience, his circle of acquaintances and relatives thinly disguised beneath initials and pseudonyms, just like Elia himself.

Evoked with rare sensuality, the minutiae of everyday life – a card game in "Mrs Battle's Opinions on Whist", the ritual of saying "Grace Before Meat", the perils of lending books in "The Two Races of Men" – are all grist to his mill. Essays of Elia certainly lends itself to repeated reading, and when Lamb's popularity was at its height, his Victorian and Edwardian readers could recite entire passages. Thanks to this elegant new Hesperus edition, Charles Lamb's forgotten masterpiece is ripe for rediscovery.

Featured Essays of the Week

Showing 1 - 10 of 441 essays

Roll Away the Stone

Pearl S. Buck - Perkasie, Pennsylvania

As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, January 22, 2010

Even in the face of possible nuclear war, Nobel Prize-winning writer Pearl S. Buck finds her faith in humanity to be stronger than ever, and believes that cooperation can solve the world’s problems.

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Nana Lit the Beacons

Ralph J. Bunche - New York, New York

As heard on This I Believe Podcast, February 26, 2018

Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche had a "poor and hard life," having lost both of his parents as a young child. But he was raised by his grandmother, a woman of principle, who taught Bunche the simple lessons that became the foundation of his beliefs.

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What We Tried to Do

Louise V. Gray - Washington, District of Columbia

As heard on This I Believe Podcast, February 12, 2018

In college, playwright Louise V. Gray had a passionate romance with another young writer. Then just before their wedding, the relationship faltered and they went their separate ways. Now years later, Gray is still grateful for that time with her lover.

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Staying Close

Ginny Taylor - Cortland, Ohio

As heard on This I Believe Podcast, February 5, 2018

Ginny Taylor has come to believe that during tough times, love has the opportunity to become stronger, when one partner learns to lean on the other.

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Old Love

Jane R. Martin - Wilmington, Delaware

As heard on This I Believe Podcast, January 29, 2018

Jane Martin believes in love, but not the wild and impetuous, Romeo-and-Juliet kind of love. She learned through her father that "old love" can be just as sweet.

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Love on Four Feet

Sarah Culp Searles - Johnson City, Tennessee

As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, January 18, 2012

As a college student, Sarah Culp Searles found her life in turmoil one day. Upon returning home, her family cat taught her a life lesson she still holds dear: that real love is steadfast and unconditional.

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Sally's Monday

Patricia James - Haydenville, Massachusetts

As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, January 11, 2013

When a friend was diagnosed with lung cancer, Patricia James didn't quite know what to do or say at first. But then she realized exactly what she needed to do: just show up.

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The Eternal Sunshine

Traci Higgins - Washington, DC

As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, January 4, 2013

When Traci Higgins was seven years old and living in a housing project, her mother taught her the importance of giving to charity. Now as an adult, she believes in charitable giving because it gives her hope for the future.

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God Is in Her Hand

John Samuel Tieman - St. Louis, Missouri

As heard on the This I Believe podcast, February 9, 2015

Some think love comes from the mind or the heart, but St. Louis teacher and poet John Samuel Tieman believes love is in the hands—such as the hands of a cherished spouse, or a talented craftsman. Tieman says we can find the sacred in human touch.

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Grace Is a Gift

Laura Durham - Salt Lake City, Utah

As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, December 24, 2010

Singer and Salt Lake City arts administrator Laura Durham learned a lesson about grace from her third grade teacher that has inspired her ever since. Now an adult, Durham believes we all deserve a little grace, especially amidst the unfairness of life.

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