Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
All I know about you is that you are a Lamb lover as I am. I like to believe that I am the greatest admirer of Lamb living today but I do know and understand that your admiration and love for him is monumental and remarkable for the contribution you’ve made in help this generation know and love Lamb better.
One of the first things I looked up upon joining Facebook is Charles Lamb – any societies, museums, clubs that celebrated this writer and I was pleased to find one that you managed, there were some others too which I of course joined. I left questions everywhere given my curiosity about Lamb and though some other Lamb lovers tried to answer them for me, most replied saying ‘get in touch with Felicity James, she’d certainly be able to answer better.’ You did answer some questions on the Facebook Charles Lamb Society page. Without your knowledge you inspired me to go find some answers myself, and that inspiration led me to go find Lamb’s grave in Edmonton last year, followed by a visit to Elia Street and the Charles Lamb pub on it.
I’ve made my tiny Lamb pilgrimages and I intend to embark on more.
Apparently, my admiration for Charles Lamb has given me many personal stories that I cherish. Not many people – friends, family, acquaintances etc. understand the depth of these stories because they are neither familiar with the romanticism and warmth that surrounds Lamb nor my deep affection for it. Hence, the sweetness of my stories are savoured by me alone. My celebrations are confined to me. Only I know the joy of writing a love letter to Lamb and leaving it at the bust on Giltspur Street and celebrating the experience later at The Charles Lamb pub on Elia Street.
You’ve perhaps never heard of Vijayawada. It’s a big town in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. I went to college in Vijayawada where I studied MA English Literature from a very small, almost forgotten degree college but that was many years ago. I was in Vijayawada again this year, visiting friends a reliving memories from my time in college ten years ago. I went back to a bookstore I bought books from as a college student. Ten years ago this bookstore was brightly lit and had many customers but now, it is nowhere close to bright and popular, an clear testimony of the unfortunate effect of online shopping. The bookstore was once known for keeping interesting books but now kept only bestsellers, to remain in business. However, I was determined to find a book that is not the regular ‘New York Times Bestseller #’
After an hour of searching, I did find a book. I am not sure if I judge books by their covers but book covers are certainly important to me. A book cover ought to be interesting, inviting and this book on William Blake’s poetry had a great cover. I bought the book but didn’t open it until I got back home to Hyderabad, the city where I live and work.
Nobody could and I suspect if many would understand how I squealed with delight when I read the introduction to the book, sitting in a coffee shop after work hours. I read page after page of the introduction and though not surprised, I felt great joy when it mentioned Charles Lamb but it was only when I reached the end of the introduction to Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence and of Experience,’ that I was almost in tears to notice something – ‘Felicity James’ your name!
Can you imagine the delight of wanting to buy a special book in a town in South India, looking for it for an hour, finding it, falling in love with it and carrying it home to read it in a random coffee shop after a long day of work and recognize the name that wrote the book’s introduction?! And can you imagine sitting there, thinking ‘oh my God, I corresponded with this name at least once!’ And can you imagine breaking into sobs and giggles, having an ordinary moment transform into a moment of great joy and surprise!
Also, from your short biography on the book, I learnt that you went to Christ Church, Oxford. Reading that line made me smile and reminded me of my visit to Christ Church last year where I had the unique honour of being a special guest of the Dean of Christ Church. I promise you that my coffee that evening was ten times more wonderful and the strawberry lamington I had with it, many times sweeter, more delectable. I had a constant smile all evening and slept wonderfully that night.
I love traveling and have traveled quite a bit. I don’t like saying the world is a small place but I love it when I see what a magical place it is! Thank you for writing that introduction, thank you for all your contribution to the Romantic world in today’s date and thank you for reading this.
A fellow Romantic.