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.
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).
His "Anna" sonnets, which appeared in the 17 editions of Coleridge's , have a sentimental, nostalgic quality: "Was it some sweet device of Faery / That mocked my steps with many a lonely glade, / And fancied wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid?
By 1820 he had developed what was to be his "Elia" prose style.
He was the first intensely personal, truly Romantic essayist, never rivaled in popularity by his friends Leigh Hunt and William Hazlitt.(He met Wordsworth, who became a lifelong friend, through Coleridge in 1797.)" Of considerable interest are Lamb's blank-verse poems, which reveal--with passion that comes through--his spiritual struggles after the tragedy, as he sought consolation in religion.In one, he doubts whether atheists or deists (such as his friend William Godwin, novelist, philosopher, and publisher of children's books) have adequate answers for the larger questions of life; other poems dwell on the death of the old aunt whose favorite he was (she also appears in his essay "Witches and Other Night-Fears"), on his dead mother with regrets for days gone, on his father's senility, on Mary's fate, and on his growing doubts about institutional religion.(Lamb too had been confined briefly at Hoxton for his mental state in 1795, but there was no later recurrence.) Both were known for their capacity for friendship and for their mid-life weekly gatherings of writers, lawyers, actors, and the odd but interesting "characters" for whom Lamb had a weakness.For the moment Lamb "renounced" poetry altogether, but he soon took it up again and began work on a tragedy in Shakespearean blank verse, (1802), which has autobiographical elements.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.On Charles (after an unpaid apprenticeship) and his elder sister, Mary, a dressmaker who had already shown signs of mental instability, fell the burden of providing for the family, and Mary took on the nursing as well.Two of Lamb's early sonnets are addressed to her: Mary, who was ten years older than Charles, had mothered him as a child, and their relationship was always a close one.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.