Mary Lamb

1764–1847
Mary Lamb

British Poet and anthologist Mary Lamb worked as a seamstress for 10 years to support her ailing family. She suffered from bipolar disorder and, during an episode in 1796, killed her mother with a kitchen knife. Her younger brother Charles, a poet and essayist who worked for the East India Company, agreed to serve as Mary’s caretaker rather than consign her to lifelong institutionalization. They lived together for nearly 40 years, save for Mary’s annual manic episodes, during which she was institutionalized.

Despite her illness, the siblings developed a collaborative writing relationship and produced many well-known collections of poetry and prose for children, including Tales from Shakespeare (1807), Mrs. Leicester’s School (1809), and Poetry for Children (1809). The books they wrote together were published anonymously or under Charles’s name in order to shield Mary from unwanted publicity. 

Charles and Mary were forced to move often due to Mary’s notoriety. In 1823 they adopted an orphan, Emma Isola, who lived with them for a decade until marrying their publisher. Charles died in 1834, and Mary was cared for by family members and a nurse, and at times placed in asylums, until her death in 1847.

Poems

What People are Saying

"I learned just how much deeper your understanding of a poem is when you memorize it than when you just read it a couple of times, and how you understand it a little better every single time you recite it."
Alex Hanesworth
2015 WA POL Champion