Old China 


Charles Lamb uses the text of this play to describe the trials of poverty and wealth. Both states are uniquely important in building one’s experience and character.

He is with his cousin Bridget who has endured a life of poverty and deprivation with him. But now they are rich and can afford all that they could not before.

Lamb points out his love for Chinaware and the artistic expressions painted on them. Whenever he entered a new home he would be fascinated by its chinaware. He admires the level of details in the art.

He describes the male figures as feminine in outlook. Due to this the artist often made women even more feminine just to strike a balance. The art also carries a sense of depth and distance.

There are the same men and women who seem to be involved in different settings but on the same cup or bowl. There are nature and all its bounties like vegetation, water, mountains etc.

Bridget gets emotional and starts to remember a time when they were not as fortunate and could not buy such items without a detailed discussion about expenditure. They were poor and had to save as much as they could.

Every penny had to be accounted for and every item bought was an achievement. However, now the only worth of any item was attached to its price tag. Now, the money spent was the only sense of accomplishment.

She wants to go back to a state where things mattered more and had greater satisfaction attached to them. She remembers the tattered clothes that they had to keep wearing in order to save money for books and plays. Now, they can buy any book and still adorn the most expensive of clothes.

She remembers how they sat with the low brow crowds in the galleries of the theatres as they could not afford the balcony tickets. These crowds were illiterate so they paid attention to every detail and questioned every aspect of the art on stage.

They were the true patrons of such art and it helped the cousins learn so much more than they would have done for the balcony. They were even astonished by the sense of regard and respect the common people had especially for ladies. This seems to be unfounded in the glamour of the rich classes.

Bridget points at the lack of accounting that they do with their finances now that they are rich. In poverty, the end of the year was a struggle to balance the finances and ledgers. It brought a greater sense of responsibility as well as expectation form the upcoming year.

In the end, Lamb consoles Bridget by telling her that all their struggles remain a part of their valuable lessons. They are who they are because of such trials and education. It made them grow close and trust each other, a bind that is more satisfying than any luxury that money can buy.

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