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Themes And Essays

Charles Lamb's Essays of Eliawere essays written about himself and his sister, Mary. By using the pseudonym Elia, he was able to examine his life at some distance, and many of his essays are Romantic in nature and deal with the whimsical nature of childhood and childhood memories. For example, in the essay "Old China," Elia and his cousin Bridget (who was really his mentally ill sister, Mary) discuss the set of china they...

Charles Lamb's Essays of Elia were essays written about himself and his sister, Mary. By using the pseudonym Elia, he was able to examine his life at some distance, and many of his essays are Romantic in nature and deal with the whimsical nature of childhood and childhood memories. For example, in the essay "Old China," Elia and his cousin Bridget (who was really his mentally ill sister, Mary) discuss the set of china they purchased when they were little. Bridget thinks they enjoyed the china more when they were young and poor, and now that they are more comfortable financially, they don't enjoy these small pleasures as much. This essay is Romantic in nature, as it celebrates the virtues of innocence, childhood, and simplicity. In "Dream-Children: A Reverie," Lamb, as Elia, tells his children a story about his great-grandmother. He wakes up to realize that the children are only fragments of his imagination, as he is a bachelor. This essay also touches on the magical and fleeting nature of childhood. 

Lamb also wrote about the arts. For example, his essay "On the Artificial Comedy of the Last Century" reignited interest in Restoration comedies, such as those by Congreve. In "On the Acting of Munden," Lamb reviews a performance by Joseph Shepherd Munden, an actor of his day. 

Lamb wrote about personal experiences. In The Last Essays of Elia, in essays such as "Blakesmoor in H---shire," for example, he writes about touring an abandoned family mansion. The tour elicits a feeling of mystery in him and provokes memories of the way the mansion stood intact and imposing during his childhood. The themes in this essay are also Romantic in nature, as this essay deals with the recollections of childhood, the mystery of life, and the contemplation of decay. 


Themes & Essays

The Themes below provide a way of understanding each historic scene within the context of four different humanities themes. Select a scene (listed across the top of the screen) and move down the column to the theme you are interested in. Click the theme essay title to read the short essay; click a scene title to go to that scene.

Please Note: an asterisk (*) indicates that the essay is currently under construction and will be coming soon. Please check back later!

 Scenes →
Themes ↓January, 1783
War's End
Fall 1783 &1784
Boom & Bust
September, 1786
Petition & Protest
January, 1787
A Bloody Encounter
March, 1787
Taking the Oath
May, 1787
Making a Nation

Getting By & Getting Ahead
*Paper Currency—
When to Take It, When to Let It Go?
*Profitable Peace?"The Labyrinth of Debt""The Most Distressing Situation"*Fiscal Relief*The Federal Solution
Economy, currency and the controversy surrounding state-issued paper money

We the People
*A Standing Army*In Debt to the World*Consititutional Resistance?"the people assembled in arms"*Up Close: Taking the Oath*We the States or
We the People?
Government, democracy, dissent and loyalty—who gets to decide?

The Wider World
American CincinnatusGinseng and Salt Cod*"Great tumults and contentions"Reporting a Bloody EncounterMercy or Retribution *The Republican Experiment —
Fatally Flawed?
National and international affairs and their impact on personal choices and behaviors

Everyday Life
*A People's Army*Adding Up*Divided CommunitiesMilitia Men and Regulators: Who was at the Arsenal?*Oath or Fight?Communities United,
Communities Divided
Post-Revolutionary society—the promises of the American Revolution and how they were, or were not, fulfilled

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