A double life : a biography of Charles and Mary Lamb


    • Burton, Sarah


A double life : a biography of Charles and Mary Lamb

Sarah Burton

Viking, 2003

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Includes bibliographical references (p. 384-389) and index



Charles and Mary Lamb were part of London's famous literary network in the early 19th century. But they were also siblings tied together by a horrific event. In September 1796, Mary murdered her mother with a carving knife during a fit of insanity as the family prepared for dinner. Charles, who was only 21 at the time, took it upon himself to care for his sister throughout her life as she swung between sanity and madness. Meanwhile, Charles also suffered from severe depressions and alcoholism and at one point had to admit himself to the Hoxton madhouse. This account of Charles and Mary Lamb reaches to the heart of early 19th-century London, meeting its eccentrics and its literary giants. It also visits the city's darker corners, where poverty stalked rented rooms and madhouses concealed terrible abuse.


  • Polly and Charley
  • the schoolboy and the mantua-maker
  • the salutation and the cat
  • friend-confessor, brother-confessor
  • Lloyd and Southey
  • toad and frog
  • the critic and the playwright
  • toothache and gumboil
  • friends and confessions
  • crimes and horrors
  • C.L. and co.
  • Bridget and Elia
  • Emma and the end.

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