So Perish the Roses

THIS long narrative constitutes a fictionized biography or, if you like, a biographized novel of Charles Lamb. On the side of fiction it is no ornament to the type as established at the hands of the smoothest practitioners; but on the side of biographical conviction these five hundred pages altogether transcend the type. Mr. Bell conducts us with authority and with surprising cumulative power into the Greater London of 1775-1834, into the disastrous household of the Lambs, and into the whimsical, chronically harassed mind of Elia himselt. And this Elia is authentically he of the Essays, the Letters, not a quasi-historical figure devised for practicability or the author’s convenience. Mr. Bell’s great qualification for rounding out from imagination the wholly credible untold story of Charles Lamb’s thwarted loves of women is simply the tact that for some thirty years he has had ‘more pleasure from the writings of Charles Lamb than from those of any other author.’