Sunday, September 15, 2002

More on Gail's Graduate Class

Charles Lamb is one of the more readable late eighteenth/early nineteenth century essayists we've had to read in the creative non-fiction class I'm taking this fall. To give you some idea of how decent a writer Lamb is, I studied him as an undergraduate and actually remember!

Why bring him up in a Weblog devoted to children's and YA literature? Well, Charles had a sister named Mary. During some sort of episode of mental illness, Mary killed their mother. To keep her out of prison, Charles offered to become her guardian. (Evidently you could do that back then.) She got off, but it was a life sentence for him. Needless to say, they ended up spending a lot of time together. And the way this connects with kidlit is that the two of them wrote a book for children called Tales From Shakespeare. The book is essentially prose versiions of some of Shakespeare's best known plays.

As luck would have it, my family happens to own a 1956 edition of the Lambs' book that evidently belonged to my husband and brother-in-law. It looks as if they barely touched the thing. My own sons avoided it as well. However, Tales From Shakespeare is available in a contemporary edition, in the event anyone would like to expose a young child to the playwright.

Here's a possible connection between Charles Lamb and myself--I can remember reading prose versions of Shakespeare's plays when I was a child. My mother had a book of them that I was reading somewhere around the time I was in second grade. If memory serves me, my mother didn't think it was appropriate reading for me and deepsixed the book. She was probably right.

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