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Written about a dream world, the essay Dream Children by Charles Lamb belongs to his famous work Essays of Elia (1823) published in London magazines. Referring to himself by the pseudonym Elia, Lamb has penned down the essays as personal accounts of his life devoid of any didactic or moral lessons.
Enriched with humour, pathos and regret for the time long gone, Lamb’s essays leave an everlasting impression on the minds and hearts of the readers.
Charles Lamb begins his essay Dream Children by describing to his young children Alice and John the tales of his childhood when he used to live with his great-grandmother, Mrs Field. In a nostalgic tone, Lamb narrates to the children the humorous details of his time spent in his great grandmother’s house; the love between the two brothers, Charles and John, their frequent wanderings and mischiefs in the grand house and their memories of the Orchid trees and the fish pond.
The tone of the essay shifts from humorous to tragic when Lamb describes the death of his beloved brother and great-grandmother whom he loses at an early age of his life. The essayist’s unfulfilled longings and desires are also evident in his work when he narrates to the children the events and incidents from his past life.
The essay highlights the themes of loss and regret in Lamb’s life. The essayist reflects nostalgically on his childhood and regrets the loss of his dear ones.
He also feels depressed on the loss of his unrequited love Alice and regrets not marrying her. Moreover, Lamb regrets that the happy and joyous days of his childhood are gone in a blink of an eye.
During his adulthood, Lamb takes his loneliness to the heart desperately yearning for the return of the old happier days of his life. The essay reaches its climax when the readers become aware of the reality that the children listening to Lamb’s stories are nothing but a figment of his imagination and a dream of a sleeping man.
This essay, revolving around the happy childhood days and the lonely adult age, brings to mind the transient nature of life where nothing remains forever in an individual’s life.
Dream Children by Charles Lamb highlights the pain and regret of losing loved ones in life persuading the essayist to indulge in a dream world fantasy in order to reflect upon the sweet memories of the days gone by.
Enriched with pathos, the essay describes the importance of childhood and the dear ones in the life of an individual without whom the world appears to be a dark alley suffocating the individual at every turn.
“We are not of Alice, nor of thee, nor are we children at all. The children of Alice call Bartrum father. We are nothing; less than nothing, and dreams. We are only what might have been, and must wait upon the tedious shores of Lethe millions of ages before we have existence, and a name.”