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The present volume, with its predecessor the Essays of Elia, contains all of Lamb's miscellaneous writings that he had himself selected for preservation in a permanent shape. Twice during his lifetime were issued collections of his prose and verse, -the Works of Charles Lamb, published by the Olliers in 1818, and the Album Verses issued by Edward Moxon in 1830. The volume now presented is made up of the contents of these two works.
Nothing has been omitted, but a few additions have been made, on a principle which I will explain. When Lamb collected his poems in 1818, he omitted from them certain pathetic verses which had been wrung from him by the first and deepest sorrow of his life-his mother's death. These he had printed when the calamity was still recent, most of them in a slender volume of blank verse written jointly by Charles Lloyd and himself in 1802. But in later years he naturally and rightly shrank from recalling to his beloved sister events in which she had taken so terrible a part. Such a reason for their omission has long ceased to exist, and accordingly they are here restored, as nearly as possible in the order of their composition. Again, after Lamb's death his literary executors—who had better reason than we can have for knowing which of the fugitive verses written between 1830 and his death in 1834 Lamb most valuedadded in the subsequent editions of his writings some half a dozen pieces that had appeared in newspapers and journals. These have been accordingly retained in the present edition. But other Occasional verses--a few
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translations, epilogues and prologues, epigrams and political squibs, which have been of late years carefully gleaned by editors of Lamb, are not here included, and the volume makes no claim, in their sense of the word, to possess the merit of completeness. Without suggesting or believing that even the lightest trifles of a humorist like Lamb are not worthy of preservation, I yet cherish a strong opinion that when a writer has himself chosen for the people “of his best," that best should be at least kept separate from matter of less worth. Acting on the same principle, I have left for a concluding volume (should it be called for) those slighter prose essays and jeux d'esprit which have been collected of late years, and entitled not, I think, very felicitously, Eliana.
I have arranged the poems as far as possible in chronological order. Lamb put so much of his personal history into his verse that when so presented it forms a delightful running commentary upon his life and education. In his early sonnets we read of his happy holiday seasons with his grandmother, Mrs. Field, at Blakesware, and the first and only love romance of his life. Then we are reminded of such alleviations of his sad and monotonous family story as were afforded by a rare excursion to the seaside or the more frequent visit to the theatre, or best of all by his correspondence or occasional meetings with Coleridge and Lloyd. Then, for a while, the verse becomes darkened by domestic calamity, and the sonnet measure of Bowles gives place to the blank verse of Cowper, whose pious example seems to have given courage to Lamb's own deep sense of need to express itself in verse. But as we read on, we trace mind and spirit recovering from their great shock, and braced by new friendships and fresh literary interests and sympathies. A fleeting passion for Hester Savory inspires his sweetest lyric, and his struggle with the seductions of his “sweet enemy," Tobacco, produces the first and most remarkable of those poems in which he shewed himself the disciple of Wither and Jonson and the