LAMB'S HUMOUR AND PATHOS
Introduction: Charles Lamb is one of the greatest essayists of English literature. He brought perfection to the art of essay writing. He is known as an essayist of style. His style and his humour and pathos made him the prince among English essayists.
Prose Style: Lamb's prose style is inimitable. His style is the expression of his personality. It is a mixture of many styles. In this context, no other essayist can stand a match to him. There is an indefinable charm in the study of Lamb. He is playful and yet he has a curious felicity. Lamb's style is a unique style unsurpassed in its effectiveness. It is noticeable for its immense variety. He writes differently on different themes. No amount of study will stale their infinite variety. By virtue of his essays Lamb holds a unique place in the development of the essay. In short, his essays are as fresh as ever.
Important Features: Lamb writes in a natural and original way. He can mould and adapt his style to all his varying moods with remarkable skill. Conversational ease, epigrammatic depth, and emotional flexibility are salient features of his style. Lamb makes frequent use of pun and irony. He uses strange word combinations for the desired effect. Allusiveness and the use of quotations are also marked features of his style. He often quotes from the old writers to express his feelings. Though this style is full of surprises and digressions, it is never monotonous. It is curiously constructed and yet absolutely sincere.
Poetic Quality: Lamb is the finest and most charming of all English essayists. Sampson says, 'Lamb's first essays are the nearest of all to poetry'. Lamb's essay is lyric in prose. He offers poetic prose because he was a poet at heart. His prose has the charm of poetry. Like a poem it appeals to the emotion and heart. He is to be read as a poet and the essays to be judged as poems. The poetic element is brought in the shape of literary allusions and quotations that are chosen with care.
Humour and Pathos: As a humorist Lamb is unsurpassable. There is no humorist more original than Lamb. His style is an expression of his humour. He often interrupted a grave discussion with a light jest. His essays are marked with all shades of humour and delicate irony. Pathos is an essential aspect of his humour. It is a consciousness of the pathetic in life that made him laugh. He laughed to save himself from weeping. Nostalgia and wistful longing often underlie his laughter. In short, Lamb's humour is a blend of jest and tears.
Personal and Autobiographical Element: Lamb's essays are personal and autobiographical. They reflect the nobility of his soul. Lamb always talks about his relatives and friends. He often changes the name of his relations and mystifies the character by blending facts with fiction. He is friendly and intimate with the reader. Throughout his essays Lamb remains personal and autobiographical.
Influence and Comparison: Lamb is remarkably influenced by the 17th century writers like
Milton, Brown, Burton, Fuller and Walton. Under their influence he often used obsolete, latinised words. Lamb has natural affinity with the ancient prose writers. But Lamb coloured his style by his own imagination. It is a personal style. Lamb can be compared with Bacon, Addison, Steele, Goldsmith, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt and Macaulay. They are his greatest companions. Lucas rightly says, 'Each of these writers could do this or that better than Lamb but Lamb as a whole is better company than all'.
Conclusion: Thus Lamb is a very prestigious essayist of English literature. His contribution to English essay is memorable. His style and his humour and pathos made him immortal in the history of English essay. He is really the prince of English essayists.