Charles Lamb (1775-1834), essayist, poet, humorist, critic and letter-writer, has an enduring reputation for his early "Tales from Shakespeare" (1807), written in collaboration with his sister Mary, and his " Essays of Elia," first published in the "London Magazine." This thematic selection of Lamb's writings - essays, dramatic criticism, verse and letters - not only demonstrates his literary achievements; it forms a self-portrait of the writer: generous, amused, and gregarious, finding imaginative escape from grim circumstances in the teeming life of London and the theatre. The reader is drawn into the circle of Lamb's friends, enjoying the company of the most personal of English essayists. J.E. Morpurgo's introduction and notes set Lamb's writings in their contemporary context.