Born in London, 1775, the well known name in English literature, Charles Lamb was the youngest amongst his siblings. He had an elder sister and brother. Lamb had an early schooling at home, while later he studied at Christ’s Hospital, which was a boarding school. Charles had a problem of stuttering that could not get him a career of cleric. Charles Lamb was a poet of Romanticism and this was the reason that his work was full of sentiments, imagery, and humour. The Essays of Elia were his pieces that used to publish in London Magazine. He wrote Tales from Shakespeare with his sister Mary Lamb. His work is mostly comprised of poems of essays. The writing style of the Lamb is simple while he has focused on the themes of consciousness of man.
The title of this English literature essay is self explanatory that what Charles Lamb is going to discuss in it. He has kind of paid tribute to these little souls who are working in the dangerous chimney in order to feed their families. Though, many children have lost their lives there too while working in those congested and smelly chimneys. They still come to clean them and earn the money.
For doing such extraordinary and brave work, Lamb has titled this poetry as In the Praise of Chimney Sweepers.
The essay by Charles Lamb begins with the remarks that he would want to meet those young boys working as Chimney Sweepers. These boys have just begun their work as sweepers. These children go down to the chimneys to clean and disappears inside just like the ghosts goes down in the Macbeth drama of Shakespeare. Further, Lamb talks about Sassafras tea that is sold in a shop in London that is like a treasure for those little Chimney sweepers. The owner of Salopian house who is Mr Read claims that his tea is the authentic one in town and others are imposters. These little sweepers come to the shop to have tea with the bread. Elia used to enjoy his time with those little sweepers. At one day, he told that when he was falling on the ice and one of the little chimney sweeper started laughing at him. His laugh was so infectious that he could not stop himself from smiling too.
The essayist is not interested in the teeth of these people, rather he loves to see these children smiling with their faces covered in black flake of the chimney.
He also recalled a story of Arundel Castle when one chimney sweeper fell into the chimney of some luxurious room and took nap in the cosy bed. Elia gave an idea that he was may be the lord who belongs to this place.
One of the friends of Elia, James White was conducting an annual dinner for these adolescent chimney sweepers. There was no adult can enter in the dinner by White. Women used to serve them sausages and James give them fine drink like they are drinking wine. The author also feels sad about his friend who took most of the fun of the world when he died.
By the time Lamb wrote this English literature essay, the industrial revolution was taking place across the world and literary people did not like it much. This industrial revolution affected the common lives of the people, the most.
Lamb has also indicated the child labour in his essays just like he did in The Praise of Chimney Sweepers. These chimneys are very dangerous and he saw those miserable, poor souls working in this condition. These little kids are looking so black due to the chimney dirt because they work the whole night and comes out in the morning. The little kids were covered in dirt and smoke of the chimney was making them black.
Elia has further said that it looks like if they are preaching something from the chimney. He compared them with the clergyman. They are teaching a lesson of patience to the mankind via their practice.
Children inside the Chimney
When these children enter the chimney, it is a mysterious pleasure to watch them. There is no air in chimney as they shiver with cold and fear. When you see them emerging back from chimneys, they feel happy. The children suddenly emerge when you are expecting them to be lost.
Just like flags in the hands of soldiers, they celebrate victory sometimes, when there is a sweep left, they face punishment. They were asked to tell about wind direction and if they told correctly, they are released. It is indeed a bleak situation. If you pass through these children give them two penny, then this is what they need.
Lamb talks about innocent sweepers
Mr Read has a shop, he sells that tea. Lamb has never tasted that tea because it tastes so bad. Lamb’s senses have told him that if he will drink or even smell it, he will vomit it out. Yet, he has seen children to sip it happily. They are fond of it. Maybe this Sarrafaras is beneficial for them as they work in extreme conditions. When they are penniless, they inhale its smoke. Just like cats purr around you, these kids do this with you. When you are on the street, there are so many people. A child who was also a chimney sweeper, saw Lamb and started laughing because he found it funny that Lamb slipped.
That child laughed so much that he eventually started crying. A painter Hogarth has painted this painting of a child crying while laughing. That child reminded him of the painting by Hogarth. Lamb do not usually like it that someone laughs at him, but he did not mind that child because of his innocence. We must not judge those kids who are already living a miserable life. We need to think about on the basis of humanity. He does not like people laughing with their teeth out, but children are an exception to that.
The Child fell into the castle
Lamb has also talked that sweeper who accidently fell into the castle’s bedroom while cleaning its chimney. He was so much battered by the times that he fell asleep on the beautiful, comfortable bed. He cast his doubt that maybe he belonged to that castle in sometime an has reached back there.
Lamb discussed his friend Jem in this English Literature
Jem White was a kind friend of Lamb who conducted dinner for these sweeper children. This was like giving respect to these kids who were working in such extreme conditions and are victims of the industrial revolution.
In the end he remembered his sympathetic friend and since he has left his world, the joy of being in the company of such good people has ended too. Lamb says that there is no more fun left in the world since people like White are not present. It shows that Elia wants to have people around him who cares about other people, especially the children.
Began in 1760 and counts from 1820 to 1840, Industrial revolution was the time that changed the scenario of the world. The new manufacturing procedures began throughout Europe and United States with the introduction of machines, chemical production, textiles, etc.
The deteriorating living standards of poor people and increase in child labour were the major drawbacks of that time. Children used to work in factories in gloomy conditions. This is what Charles Lamb has discussed in his English literature essay as well.
One of the very evident themes of this English Literature essay, In Praise of Chimney Sweeper is the Childhood. Elia has emphasized that how the childhood of these little children are at stake when they have to work in such bleak chimneys instead of going to the school or playing in the playgrounds with other kids. They have to be in a place that is scary yet dangerous for them to even breath. These innocent children, even teaching us to be tolerant just like they are when they have to do this job.
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