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Showing posts from February 27, 2011

Elia meets Karl Marx at the South Sea House

When Charles Lamb, a scholarship boy at Christ’s Hospital, was fifteen, one of his patrons, Thomas Coventry, had a discussion with a City merchant, Joseph Paice, concerning the boy. According to Lucas’s biography of Lamb, Coventry, a bearish plutocrat of the pure 18th century type, said to Price, ““There is a lad that I placed some years since in the Blue Coat school, now on the point of leaving it, and I know not what on earth to do with him.” “Let him have the run of the counting house till something better offers,” said Mr. Paice.” (71) The conversation of such men was like unto the grinding mechanism of fate, and they shaped Charles Lamb’s entire professional life from that moment on. Or rather, they shaped one of the outstanding facts about Lamb: he made his money as a clerk. He was first with Mr. Paice at the South Sea House, and then went into the accounting department at India House. Lamb is one of the exemplary clerks of literature. He wrote about it; he lived it; he chafed wi