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HIS volume contains the work by which Charles Lamb is best known and upon which his fame will rest-Elia and The Last Essays of Elia. Although one essay is as early as 1811, and one is perhaps as late as 1832, the book represents the period between 1820 and 1826, when Lamb was between forty-five and fifty-one. This was the richest period of his literary life.
The text of the present volume is that of the first edition of each book-Elia, 1823, and The Last Essays of Elia, 1833. The principal differences between the essays as they were printed in the London Magazine and elsewhere, and as they were revised for book form by their author, are shown in the Notes. The three-part essay on "The Old Actors" (London Magazine, February, April, and October, 1822), from which Lamb prepared the three essays "On Some of the Old Actors," "The Artificial Comedy of the Last Century," and "The Acting of Munden," is printed in the Appendix as it first appeared. The absence of the "Confessions of a Drunkard" from this volume is due to the fact that Lamb did not include it in the first edition of The Last Essays of Elia. It was inserted later, in place of "A Death-Bed," on account of objections that were raised to that essay by the family of Randal Norris. The story is told in the notes to "A Death-Bed," on page 452. The "Confessions of a Drunkard" will be found in Vol. I.
With regard to the Notes, I should like to repeat what I said in the General Introduction to this edition, in Vol. I.—that their fulness is due to the circumstance that, in addition to an
attempt to show the place of each essay in Lamb's life and to relate his writings to each other, I have endeavoured to account for every allusion in the text not likely to be fully understood by the ordinary reader. This necessarily means that the more literary reader will find much in the Notes that he knew before; which is, I think, a less evil than that other readers should have to turn away baffled of information. In tracing the phrases borrowed by Lamb from older authors I have confined myself almost exclusively to those which he places between quotation marks. To comment upon the others would be, although a very interesting task, an endless and possibly a pedantic one, certainly beyond the capacity of the present editor. No author's style is so charged, as was Lamb's, with felicitous recollections of the Elizabethans.
Two or three quotations still baffle research; and, without the assistance of better-stored memories than my own, I should not have been able to give many of the references which will be found. Chief among those to whom I am indebted is Mr. W. J. Craig. Where I have borrowed from previous editors of Lamb I have acknowledged the obligation.
The portrait which serves as frontispiece to this volume is from a drawing by Daniel Maclise, preserved in the South Kensington Museum.
E. V. L.