History: Published in 2004.
Plot: The plot is a lightly fictionalized story about real-life essayist Charles Lamb and his sister Mary, both passionate devotées of the Bard, and their fraught friendship with William Henry Ireland, a bookseller who unearths a trove of Shakespeare documents, including what seems to be an unknown play. The mystery of the play feels suffocated by the strictures of feminine domesticity; William chafes against his father's dominationbut they do so without craning their necks toward modernity as an escape route: Ackroyd knows that the past is another country; there his characters live, and there they stay.
Review: Peter Ackroyd's new novel, true to form, blends fiction and literary biography. I would have welcomed an afterword disentangling the fact from the fiction; but the lack of scholarly footnotes did nothing to detract from my enjoyment. The Lambs of London is a delicious entertainment, faithful to its period, but done with the lightest of touches.
Opening Line: “I loathe the stench of horses.”
Closing Line: “Charles Lamb grew old in the service of the East India Comp;any, together with Tom Coates and Benjamin Milton, and was buried in the same churchyard.”
Quotes: “What did he fear? He feared his own failure. He feared his own future.”