Significance of the Title Dream Children: A Reverie
Lamb’s essay is entitled “Dream Children: A Reverie“. A reverie is a day-dream, that is musing in wakeful moments so deeply as to forget the world of realities and pass into a world of imagination. It is wistful thinking or rather the realization of an unfulfilled hope in retrospect. The term ‘Dream Children’ implies children who exist only in a dream.
When Lamb wrote this essay he was fatigued with the hard labour and drudgery of life as an accounts clerk in the East India Company The death of his elder brother. John had also been a great shock to him. His heart was heavy and his spirits were low, and he was haunted by a feeling of sorrow and desolation. Sadly, he looked back upon the barren track of his life and brooded how he could have been in a smiling green Valley.
Lamb hungered for the joys of a happy married life but his house never rang with the merry laughter of children, and he was denied by fate the quiet contentment and cheer of wedded bliss. This unquenched hunger finds a superb expression in this essay without a parallel in English literature
The essay “Dream Children: A Reverie” displays Lamb’s forceful fancy mingled with his recollections of the bygone memories. Here he gives an account of his boyhood days, his youth and his unsuccessful courting. Lamb had to dedicate his life to his sister Mary Lamb who had been a patient of seasonal madness and had killed her mother being once in the fit of that deadly disease. He had to sign an undertaking that he would look after her and give her an asylum. As a result of this he could not marry Ann Simons whom he had courted for seven years.
The bachelorhood which was forced upon him was something he found difficult to endure. Of course, he attempted to laugh away but he was almost obsessed with the desire for children of his own and a little happy home. His suppressed desire finds a superb literary expression here. In his essay he provides a truthful picture of his grandmother Field willfully substituting Norfolk for Hertfordshire where she actually lived. The account of his courtship with Ann Simons (Alice W-n, in this essay) is also true. Her coyness, difficulty and denial had all been part of his experience.
Thus, the edifice of fancy has been built on the solid ground of reality. All dreams are characterized as blending of fact and fiction. “Dream Children: A Reverie” is a typical account of a dream emerging from the wistful fancy of a bachelor—the fancy of possessing children of his own, which would never been translated into reality. The essay is, indeed a half-expressed and half-eloquent self-exposure of a sensitive man with agonized sensibilities
- Charles Lamb’s prose style in The Dream Children: A Reverie
- Blending of Humour and Pathos in Dream Children: A Reverie
Just before the children entirely disappear, they tell him that they are not his, nor Alice’s. They are only what might have been and would have to wait long before they could have existence in the world of the living. On waking Lamb finds himself quietly seated in his bachelor armchair where he had fallen asleep. The essay is indeed, appropriately named. The interpretation of the dream in Freudian manner is not at all difficult.
Lamb’s unfulfilled desire assumes in his dream, the pseudo-realistic forms of children as they creep round him pressing him to tell them a story about their elders. What is extraordinary is the way Lamb attributes to the shadowy figures, the charm and delicacy of imaginative reality. The end of the reverie s unusually sweet in its tragic impact upon the reader’s fancy. The entire essay vibrates with the author’s love of live, his passionate yearning for the real experiences of a loving husband and affectionate father.
The dream element in this essay reveals Lamb’s essentially romantic disposition. Although he has experienced much bitterness and frustration he is frequently tempted to recollect all that is supposed to be buried in the past. It is his fanciful nature that induces him to be haunted by his unfulfilled aspirations. Although he is a confirmed bachelor, his romantic nature perhaps enables him at times to ponder over the incongruous idea of a bachelor’s parenthood. It is this romantic obsession that must be responsible for Lamb’s reverie in which the children of his fancy appear to him with their childlike demand for stories. And he, like the typical obliging father gladly complies with their request. Such a dream as Lamb talks of here is perhaps possible for one who is endowed with a romantic mind.