Double Life: A Biography of Charles and Mary Lamb

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9780140297157: Double Life: A Biography of Charles and Mary Lamb

The little known story of the inseparable brother and sister, lights of the Romantic circle, privately haunted by madness Wordsworth thought that if there were such a thing as a good man, it would be Charles Lamb, while Hazlitt believed Mary Lambto be the only sensible woman he knew. The couple's literary reputation rested partly on the famous Tales from Shakespeare. And yet there was an unhappier side: Charles was an alcoholic and Mary, in an attack of insanity, stabbed their mother to death. This fascinating account reaches to the heart of early nineteenth century London, meeting its eccentrics and its literary giants. It also visits the city's darker corners, where poverty stalks rented rooms and madhouses conceal terrible abuse.

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About the Author:

Sarah Burton's first book, Imposters: Six Kinds of Liar, was published by Penguin. She lives near Ely in Cambridgeshire.

Review:

Hefty biographical treatment of Charles and Mary Lamb, luminaries of early nineteenth-century literary life, authors of Tales from Shakespeare (1807), key figures in the romantic movement. This inseparable brother and sister were acquainted with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, William Hazlitt, Mary Shelley, William Godwin, Thomas de Quincey and many other now less well known figures in the history of romanticism. But Mary suffered bouts of insanity and Charles was an alcoholic, conditions brought on by a terrible family event that cast a long shadow over their lives. A work of serious scholarship, particularly good on the early treatment of madness, with plenty of footnotes yet also eminently readable. And the terrible event, while no great secret, is still shocking more than 200 years later.

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