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The family was ambitious for its two sons, John and Charles, and successful in entering Charles at Christ's Hospital, a London charity school of merit, on 9 October 1782.Here he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a fellow pupil who was Lamb's close friend for the rest of their lives and who helped stir his growing interest in poetry. (Because he had a severe stammer, he did not seek a university career, then intended to prepare young men for orders in the Church of England.) In September 1791 he found work as a clerk at the South Sea House, but he left the following February, and in April he became a clerk at the East India Company, where he remained for thirty-three years, never feeling fitted for the work nor much interested in "business," but managing to survive, though without promotion.Two of Lamb's early sonnets are addressed to her: Mary, who was ten years older than Charles, had mothered him as a child, and their relationship was always a close one.
A new edition of his entertaining letters is also underway.
While Lamb was an occasional journalist, a playwright (of small success), a writer for children, and a poet, it is his prose which has endured.
For the moment Lamb "renounced" poetry altogether, but he soon took it up again and began work on a tragedy in Shakespearean blank verse, (1802), which has autobiographical elements.
While there are a few fine lines and the writing in general is competent but unoriginal, plotting and character are weak: it was never produced.
The great French critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve admired Lamb's early sonnet "Innocence" so much that he translated it, but most critics then and now agree with Leigh Hunt that Lamb "wanted sufficient heat and music to render his poetry as good as his prose." Alaric A.