While I was dusting my books, I came across a tiny Oxford hardcover of Charles Lamb’s Essays of Elia and The Last Essays of Elia. It was behind the Doris Lessing books, where it has been lost in limbo for years. It is a a mini-edition – doll-size – too big for Barbie (of the Barbie movie fame) but perfect for the iconic Chatty Cathy, a talking doll that was de rigueur one Christmas.
Bur I digress. I am not having an existential crisis – not exactly – but I am not ” happy as a lark,” either. When I began to reread Lamb, I chortled, relaxed, and admired. These essays are as charming and thoughtful as I remembered. I am presently reading the short-short “Popular Fallacies” essays ( “That Home Is Home, though it is never so Homely,” “That a Bully is always a Coward,” “That Handsome Is That Handsome Does,” etc.). They are utterly delightful.
My favorite: “That We Should Rise with the Lark.”
Like Lamb, I do not rise with the lark.
At what precise minute that little airy musician doffs his night gear, and prepares to tune up his unseasonable matins, we are not naturalists enough to determine. But for a mere human gentleman – that has no orchestra business to call him from his warm bed to such preposterous exercises – we take ten, or half after ten (eleven, of course during this Christmas solstice) to be the earliest hour, at which he can begin to think of abandoning his pillow.
I agree whole-heartedly with Lamb. For a mere human lady, we also prefer to sleep in. One morning last summer I rose at 6, took my cup of tea outdoors, and squished through the grass, determined to commune with nature. “Is that dew?” I had forgotten about dew. But the sunrise gave me a headache, and I couldn’t find my sunglasses. And where was the lark? It seemed that the lark had had a late night and not yet left the nest.
Lamb writes, “We are no longer ambitious of being the sun’s courtiers, to attend at his morning levees.”
Lamb is thoughtful, whimsical, satirical, and sometimes poignant.
The mini-Oxford edition has no introduction, but the copyright page reveals that Charles Lamb was
Born: London 10 February 1775
Died: Edmonton 27 December 1834
And the essays were published between 1820 and 1833.