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?
"; "Methinks how dainty sweet it were, reclin'd"; "When last I roved these winding wood-walks green"; "A timid grace sits trembling in her eye." All were written after the love affair had ended, to Lamb's regret.
Thereafter she was most often lucid, warm, understanding, and much admired by such friends as the essayist William Hazlitt. But she was almost annually visited by the depressive illness which led to her confinement for weeks at a time in a private hospital in Hoxton.
(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.
He early realized that poetry was not his vocation; his best poetry was written in youth.
The son of John and Elizabeth Field Lamb, Charles Lamb, a Londoner who loved and celebrated that city, was born in the Temple, the abode of London lawyers, where his father was factotum for one of these, Samuel Salt.
Though soon after his mother's death he announced his intention to leave poetry "to my betters," Lamb continued to write verse of various kinds throughout his life: sonnets, lyrics, blank verse, light verse, prologues and epilogues to the plays of friends, satirical verse, verse translations, verse for children, and finally (1830), written to please young ladies who kept books of such tributes.
By 1820 he had developed what was to be his "Elia" prose style.
The tragedy of 22 September 1796—when Mary, exhausted and deranged from overwork, killed their mother with a carving knife—changed both their lives forever.
She was judged temporarily insane, and Lamb at twenty-two took full legal responsibility for her for life, to avoid her permanent confinement in a madhouse.