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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

"The Praise of Chimney-Sweepers" - An Understanding

(Précis)
  1. Lamb wants to meet the young chimney-sweepers who come at the dawn and sometimes do not even see the sunrise (metaphorically, they are always kept in the dark). He has a special yearning for these boys and girls whom he notes as "dim specks - poor blots - innocent blacknesses".
  2. Lamb conveys his sincere respect to these chimney-sweepers (the "Africans of our growth") for they set out for work early in the morning, battle through the freezing climate, and yet preach to mankind a lesson of patience.
  3. Lamb then talks of the struggles of the young chimney-sweepers who are lost in the darkness of those huge chimneys, while their other companions have lost all hopes of expecting them to return. But in complete delight, there emerges a survivor waving his brush as if it were a weapon and that he was a victorious soldier who had conquered a fort. Lamb also hints at the punishment given to a bad sweep - that he would be locked in a stack with his brush, and would be asked to indicate which way the wind blew.
  4. Now, Lamb urges the readers to be compassionate on these young souls (the young chimney-sweepers). It would be nice of the readers to provide the young men and women with some money, food and warm clothes - and that the readers do not have to spend their entire fortune but a very minute part of it.
  5. Further, Lamb mentions about a peculiar beverage with its main ingredients being "sassafras" (a fragrant bark of an American tree). This pleasant beverage is provided to the chimney-sweepers and which they drink with great contentedness. While, Lamb himself cannot bear to drink this beverage for it is much unappetizing for him. But, to a chimney-sweeper, this beverage is luxury. The sassafras is oleaginous (oily) in nature and as the drink goes down the throat of these young men, the sooty matter on the roof of the mouth also reduces in its thickness.
  6. Lamb talks about Mr. Read, the owner of the Salopian house, that he runs quite well his business for he can never run out of customers - the young chimney-sweepers (whom the writer refers to as "artisans").
  7. The writer now turns to the readers and urges them to help these boys by giving them extra money, a slice of delicate bread and butter so that it may help to soothe the palate of the young boys. The employers need to be grateful to these chimney-sweepers, because they work hard and not allow the descending soot to ever touch the food, even if they have to face death in a fired chimney. Their cries cannot be heard for there is the noise of the rattling engines from the adjacent "parishes" (an area that has its own local church and priest or minister).
  8. The writer shares one of his early experiences where he had a good fall and a chimney-sweeper laughed looking at this. Lamb is annoyed by those people who laugh showing their teeth out for he sees their bones as well, but he is not angered when the chimney-sweeper laughs for it is the laugh of innocence, of glee and definitely less of mischief. This display of white on a sweeper's face is compared to - "A sable cloud. Turns forth her silver lining on the night." This marks a badge of better days.
  9. Lamb cites yet another instance where he describes the royal bed, that of the duke at Arundel castle. A lost chimney sweeper accidentally comes into the duke's room and is lured by the comfort. He lays his black head upon the pillow and sleeps like the young Howard (the duke). This venture of the sweep was more or less initiated by his desperate want of care and concern, as how he had once received when he was in the womb, and now once again after many years the boy creeps back into his proper cradle.
  10. Another instance that Lamb cites is of his friend Jem White (James White) who was impressed with a belief of metamorphosis (a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something) frequently took place - he arranged for an annual feast for the chimney-sweepers in a small enclosed space. There was heavy amount of food but not of its best quality, the small ale was served as if it was the best of wines. All this was done in order to deceive these young workers so that they would consider going back and continuing their work rather than protesting against authorities. The diversion and flattery made through the feast is to please these young children and then subject them to difficult labour.
  11. The plight of these young children are brought in the following lines: "Golden lads and lasses must,/As chimney-sweepers, come to dust-"
  12. Lamb concludes the essay by stating that after James White's time was gone, the annual feast too ended; with him the glory of the feast in Smithfield was departed for ever.
(Major themes)
  1. The essay discusses the times when industries were on its development at a fast rate.
  2. This text also highlights the atrocities done by the then sole institution - the Church; through a detailed criticism of religion as an institute of corruption, Lamb has tried to bring the truth to the forefront.
  3. Lamb's tone of narration while citing various instances runs more on an ironic level, he is mocking at those who benefit without doing any work at all. This could probably be a direct attack on the suppression of the working class by the ruling class (or the bourgeois). He discusses this politics in a very subtle manner. 
  4. There is a mystical aspect, as well as a humanistic aspect present in the essay. The critical study of the religious institutions, its tenets and its contradicting relation with the society explains the mystical aspect; while the writer's concern and soft-corner for the chimney-sweepers, and his constant urging of the readers to help the young boys and girls marks the humanistic aspect.

24 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Any thoughts on why does Lamb sympathize with the young chimney sweeps?

      Delete
    2. Cee Cee, this particular essay comes under the category titled "Personal Essays". Lamb offers his opinions, but they are subjective. However, this essay was written during the time of industrialization in England, and it was also the time when the atrocities of the then solo institution, the Church, was coming out to the forefront. As far as his sympathy towards the young chimney sweeps is concerned, probably Lamb absorbed the sensitive nature from all his readings and thus the humanistic element in the essay.

      Delete
  2. Excellent. It would have been nonpareil if a little bit of annotations were included.
    Suman Jana




    ReplyDelete
  3. i am persuing my masters in english literature and your notes are really helpful fr me... thanks mam!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. lot of thanks its very very easy and helpful content.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's a great effort. I appreciate the setting and order of the summary.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This was really helpful. Thanks a lot.
    Could you also do Mackery end in Hertfordshire by William Hazlitt? It would be of great help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome!
      "Mackery end, in Hertfordshire" by Lamb you mean?

      Delete
  7. I'm here after reading the actual text ^^ Makes me get a clear picture :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very useful summary for students. ...

    ReplyDelete

I would love to hear from you! Do leave a comment!

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