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The Lambs of London: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 20, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (June 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385514611
  • ASIN: B005ZOK7MM
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,790,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following up on his recent nonfiction Shakespeare: The Biography, Ackroyd brings readers forward to London at the turn of the 19th century, and to denizens who are preoccupied with the Shakespearean past. The plot is a lightly fictionalized story about real-life essayist Charles Lamb and his sister Mary, both passionate devotées of the Bard, and their fraught friendship with William Henry Ireland, a bookseller who unearths a trove of Shakespeare documents, including what seems to be an unknown play. The mystery of the play's origin shapes an enchanting, slightly melancholy, exploration of Regency society. The young characters struggle with the constraints of their day—the brilliant, fragile Mary feels suffocated by the strictures of feminine domesticity; William chafes against his father's domination—but they do so without craning their necks toward modernity as an escape route: Ackroyd knows that the past is another country; there his characters live, and there they stay. Steeping readers in revealing but unobtrusive period detail, Ackroyd once again delivers a psychologically rich evocation of a vanished time. (June 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Peter Ackroyd, author of London: The Biography and other historical novels, imbues his newest work, based on real people in 19th-century London, with Elizabethan flair. Filled with colorful characters, suspense, ambiguity, and wit, this tragicomedy offers a rich appreciation of literature and history. The only debate centered on the novel's historical accuracy. The Los Angeles Times faulted Ackroyd for presenting inaccuracies that contradict known history, despite the author's admitted fictional bent (Mary falls for the real-life forgerer William, for example). But most critics praised Ackroyd's "intriguing adjustments" to history (Newsday).

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A. Hickman on September 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
"The Lambs of London" is a nifty little book that blends history and fiction with just a soupcon of mystery to make for a very satisfying read. In the last decade of the 18th century, William Henry Ireland really did produce a number of Shakespeare-related manuscripts (including a letter to the bard from Queen Elizabeth) that experts swore were authentic. I know of no factual connection to Charles and Mary Lamb, but Mary's tragic history (somewhat telescoped here) dovetails nicely with that of Ireland, who, like Chatterton, was but a teenager when he committed his infamous forgeries, the most notorious of which was a "lost play" by Shakespeare entitled "Vortigern," after the Dark-age British King. Other sources give the full title of the play as "Vortigern and Rowena," although this is never mentioned by Ackroyd, and there are other minor discrepancies as well (for instance, Ireland's so-called "patron" and source of the manuscripts is usually given as another young man and not a woman), but Ackroyd is not so much interested in the truth as in the "larger narrative." And a riveting narrative it is! Along the way, we meet such period heavy hitters as Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Thomas de Quincey, and there are fine portraits of lesser-knowns such as Ireland's father, Samuel, an antiquarian who was ruined by the scandal, and Charles Lamb's circle of bibulous friends from the East India House, who stage a play of their own, portraying the "mechanicals" in Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream." The climax of the novel is a brilliantly realized staging of "Vortigern," which may or may not have been the travesty it was later judged to be. There is more attention to character and plot in "The Lambs of London" than is typical of Ackroyd's novels, thus making this one of his best. I recommend it warmly.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on August 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The Lambs of London is the story of Charles and Mary Lamb, authors of Shakespeare for Children, and the great literary hoax that was played upon London in the first few years of the 19th century by William Henry Ireland, son of a book seller.

Charles is a clerk at the East India House. He's bored with his job and spends his free time in taverns drinking with his friends. In fact, when we first meet him, he is slightly less than sober. His sister Mary, is a fragile young woman who is emotionally and physically unwell. She idolizes her brother and puts up with Charles's coming home drunk at odd hours. They live with their parents, their overbearing mother and their slightly senile father.

They soon become acquainted with Ireland, who at the age of 17 is already a writer. To suit his own fancy, he "discovers" a lost Shakespearean work called "Vortigern" as well as a testament allegedly written by Shakespeare's father. Its pretty obvious that both works are forgeries; the text of the play uses too many 19th-century phrases and it only has four acts. The documents were also found under suspecious cercumstances that Ireland refuses to discuss. But London, caught up in this extraordianry new "find" recognizes the work as real and the play is performed.

While the major facts of the book are true, there is a lot that is not and there are a few misleading things as well. The dates are slightly off: in the book, the forgery and Mary's death take place in or before 1804; in real life, the forgery took place in 1796. In real life, also, Mary survived her brother. Shakespeare for Children was written in 1807; and while this book does not cover that time period, it might have been nice for the author to have at least mentioned it in his afterword.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on June 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm not a scholar of Shakespeare nor historic England, but I found the combination of a book that delved into Shakespeare and life 200 years ago to be an irresistable combination. In this novel, author PEter Ackroyd takes a true event -- the forgery of some Shakespeare letters, poems, and a play -- and brings the perpetrators and other early 19th-century Shakespearians to life.

For me, the most entertaining thing was to try to inhabit the minds of people who literally seemed to have Shakespeare at-hand in their everyday speech and perception. They could quote him as easily as we'd quote lines from a sitcom or commercial. And "they" were not necessarily scholars and children of nobility. These were shopkeepers and clerks -- but with ambitions, intelligence, and intensity. I'd like to think that I would have been able to do so, if I had been raised in that environment, too.

The pace of the story never slackens. We first meet Mary Lamb (an old maid, destined to care for her senile father) and Charles Lamb (her brother, a clerk with the East India company who dreams of glory as a literary critic and essayist). Since childhood, these two have been close, and they have shared a love of language and intellectual conversation. While Mary is house-bound, due to the restrictions of her era, Charles works and goes drinking with his friends several night a week. He's found a boisterous, reasonably literate crew of pals, and they respect the small articles he's been able to place in literary publications. Charles meets -- or rather, is baited by -- William Ireland, an ambitious and possibly genius 17-year-old son of a bookseller. Ireland begins to share with William and Mary a series of Shakespeare pieces -- a letter, a poem -- that he has forged.
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