Here he fell in love with Ann Simmons, subject of his earliest sonnets (though his first to be published, in the 29 December 1794 issue of the , was a joint effort with Coleridge to the actress Sarah Siddons—evidence of his lifelong devotion to the London theater).
The son of John and Elizabeth Field Lamb, Charles Lamb, a Londoner who loved and celebrated that city, was born in the Temple, the abode of London lawyers, where his father was factotum for one of these, Samuel Salt.
The family was ambitious for its two sons, John and Charles, and successful in entering Charles at Christ's Hospital, a London charity school of merit, on 9 October 1782.
While there are a few fine lines and the writing in general is competent but unoriginal, plotting and character are weak: it was never produced.
"The Wife's Trial," a late play in blank verse, is of minor interest.
After the death of Samuel Salt in 1792 the Lambs were in straitened circumstances, mother and father both ill.
The elder brother, John, was living independently and was not generous to his family.Charles continued to write—a ballad on a Scottish theme, poems to friends and to William Cowper on that poet's recovery from a fit of madness."A Vision of Repentance" ("I saw a famous fountain, in my dream") treats a truly Romantic theme—the hope of God's forgiveness for the sin of a repentant Psyche.Watts, another of Lamb's contemporaries, wrote a jingle on Lamb that includes these lines: "For what if thy Muse will be sometimes perverse, / And present us with prose when she means to give verse? Barnett, and William Kean Seymour, however, find in much of it charm, honesty, strength of feeling, and originality." He noted that Lamb's is often admirably poetic, so that "we miss not the rhyme." In the twentieth century A. Ward has effectively demonstrated that Lamb's poetry lacks both the inspiration and discipline of his prose, concluding that in his poetry "his intensity of emotion is never once matched with an intensely personal manner of expression: he does not find the one perfect mould, and hardly ever lights upon the miraculous right word...." (For "never once" one should substitute "rarely.") E. "His poetry," Seymour concludes, "makes a pendant to his Essays, and it is a lustrous and significant pendant." The roles of artist and critic, of course, demand very different abilities: Lamb was, in correspondence, an able critic of the poetry of Coleridge and Wordsworth, who sometimes took his advice.It has a Keatsian charm but little lasting distinction.The tragedy of 22 September 1796—when Mary, exhausted and deranged from overwork, killed their mother with a carving knife—changed both their lives forever.Yet these poems are among his most "prosy," with only an occasional impressive passage; their grammatical complexities are hard to follow.Several were published with poems by his Quaker friend Charles Lloyd in their some they have died and some they have left me, And some are taken from me; all are departed; All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.(1980) gathers his criticism from all sources, including letters.A new edition of his entertaining letters is also underway.