Dream Children by Charles Lamb

“Dream Children: A Reverie” by Charles Lamb

Dream Children by Charles Lamb
Dream Children by Charles Lamb


“Dream Children: A Reverie” is a touching essay written by the English essayist Charles Lamb. The essay Dream Children by Charles Lamb belongs to his famous work Essays of Elia published in London magazines in 1823. Essays of Elia is a collection of essays written by Charles Lamb. Charles Lamb presents the characters and incidents from his own life—the sketches of his grandmother, Field, his brother—John Lamb, his sister—Mary Lamb, and his tragic love affairs with Ann Simmons. But Lamb is always playing with facts and fiction and transforms the real into the literary.

The essay is a masterpiece of emotional expression, blending humor, pathos, and nostalgia. Lamb uses the device of a dream to reveal his innermost feelings and desires, as well as to create a contrast between reality and fantasy. The essay is written in the form of reverie, in which Lamb imagines a conversation with his two imaginary children.

About the Author

Charles Lamb (10 February 1775 – 27 December 1834) was an English essayist, and poet, best known for his Essays of Elia and for the children’s book Tales from Shakespeare, co-authored with his sister, Mary Lamb (1764–1847).
Friends with such literary luminaries as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, and William Hazlitt.

Charles Lamb was at the center of a central literary circle in England. He was a contemporary of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and his work is often associated with the Romantic movement. Lamb is known for his personal and introspective writing style, which was influenced by his own experiences of loss and tragedy. He is considered one of the great masters of the English essay and is widely regarded as one of the most important literary figures of his time.


The background of “Dream Children: A Reverie” lies in Lamb’s own life experiences. He had a close relationship with his brother John, who suffered from mental illness and died young. Lamb himself suffered from depression and was forced to give up his own aspirations in order to support his family.

Themes Of The Dream Children Essay

The essay reflects on these experiences and explores the themes of Imagination, the beauty of Childhood, Memory, Love, and Loss of Love.

The power of imagination: Lamb shows how imagination can create a world of happiness and fulfillment. He also shows how imagination can be a source of pain and disappointment, when it clashes with reality or when it fades away.

The beauty of childhood: Lamb portrays childhood as a time of innocence, wonder, and joy, as well as a time of learning and growth. He contrasts his own childhood with that of his dream children, who are deprived of their mother and their uncle. He also reflects on how childhood shapes one’s personality and character.

The value of memory: Lamb demonstrates how memory can preserve the past and keep alive the loved ones who are gone. He also shows how memory can be selective and subjective, highlighting some aspects and omitting others. He also questions the reliability and accuracy of memory, as he admits that some of his stories may not be true or may be embellished.

The meaning of love: Lamb expresses his love for his family and friends, especially for his brother John and his beloved Alice. He also shows how love can be unrequited, frustrating, or lost. He also suggests that love can transcend death and time, as he feels the presence of his ancestors and his lover in his dream.

The central theme of “Dream Children: A Reverie” is loss. Lamb explores the tragic loss of his brother, John, and the impact that this had on his life. He also reflects on the loss of his own dreams and ambitions, as he had been forced to give up his own aspirations in order to support his family.

Summary Of The Dream Children

Lamb creates two imaginary children in the essay.

The first imaginary child is Alice, who is described as being seven years old and having a sweet and serious disposition. She is depicted as being very close to her father and is interested in hearing stories about his childhood. Lamb describes her as being “the favorite of my imaginary beings,” suggesting that she represents a lost innocence and a desire for familial closeness.

The second imaginary child is John, who is described as being ten years old and more lively and mischievous than his sister. He is depicted as being interested in his father’s travels and adventures and is portrayed as having a sense of humor. However, he is also described as being sensitive and emotional, particularly when it comes to his father’s stories about his childhood.

John and Alice asked Lamb to tell them about their great Grandmother, Mrs. Field.

The Great Grandmother, Mrs. Field lived in a very big house. The house belonged to a rich nobleman. Grandmother Field was the keeper of the house and she looked after the house with great care as though it was her own.

The two infants are haunted in the house and crave “The Children in The Wood”. But a foolish rich person later pulled down the wooden chimney and put up a chimney of marble. Alice was unhappy that the rich man had pulled down the chimney piece. She looked upbraiding and her anger was like her mother. Great-Grandmother Mrs. Field was very religious so she did not fear the spirits of the two infants So she slept alone. But Lamb (Elia) used to sleep with his maid as he was not so religious.

Grandmother was tall and upright but later she was bowed down by a disease called cancer. When the grandmother died many people in the neighborhood attended her funeral. She was also a good dancer when she was young. Here, Alice moved her feet unconsciously as she too was interested in dancing.

When the house came to decay later, after the death of Mrs. Field, the nobleman carried away the ornaments of the house and used them in his new house. The ornaments of the old house looked very awkward in the new house. Things looked beautiful only if are in harmony with the surroundings. John enjoyed the comparison and smile as if he also felt it would be very awkward indeed.

In Old House, In the garden, there were fruits nectarines, peaches, oranges, and others. Elia (lamb) never plucked them but rather enjoyed looking at them. Here John deposited a bunch of grapes upon a plate to eat the grapes and share with her sister Alice.

Of all the grandchildren, Grandmother Field loved John(Her Uncle) the most. John was lively and spirited fond of riding, hunting, and outdoor activities. He used to take James Elia(lamb) upon his back out for outings as James Elia was lame-footed. But James did not do it when John was lame-footed. He was sorry for it. John died later and James missed him much.

The children began to cry at the sad turn of events. They asked him not to continue the story of Uncle John but to tell them about their dead mother. The father began to tell them how had courted their mother, Alice (Lamb’s wife) for seven years. He was at times hopeful of winning her and at times in despair. He explained to them what coyness, difficulty, and denial mean in an unmarried lady.

When the father looked at Alice she looked at that time very much like her mother. Thereafter, the children began to grow fainter. They began to go away further and further till the father could hardly see them. From a great distance, they seemed to say that they were not children of Alice nor of him, they were not children at all, they were only what might have been. When he woke up found himself in an armed chair. He had fallen asleep and he had been dreaming. James Elia had vanished. On the chair was only Charles Lamb.


Thus, “Dream Children: A Reverie” is a beautiful, imaginative, and creative moving essay that explores the various human condition themes such as loss of love, beautiful memory, and the power of the imagination. Lamb uses their creative imagination, so we hard to define the lines between reality and fantasy. He creates a world that is both real and imaginary. He uses his imaginary children to explore the joys and sorrows of his own life and come to terms with the tragedies that have shaped him.

Related Topic: Alice in Wonderland

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