Excerpt from The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Lambs of London

by Peter Ackroyd

The Lambs of London
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2006, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2007, 224 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Tizzy was putting a dish of sauce upon the table; she had a slight palsy, and spilled some upon the waxen polished surface. Charles licked his finger and scooped it up. ‘A few breadcrumbs, mixed with liver and a dash of mild sage. It is bliss.’

‘Nonsense, Charles.’ Mrs Lamb was a member of the Holborn Fundamental Communion, and had firm ideas on the subject of bliss. Her somewhat dour piety, however, had no obvious effect upon her appetite. She intoned the grace, in which her children joined, and then served the chops.

‘Why should the act of eating need a blessing?’ Charles had once asked his sister. ‘As distinct from silent gratitude? Why not a grace before setting out on a moonlight ramble? A grace before Spenser? A grace before a friendly meeting?’ Ever since childhood Mary had disliked the ceremony of the family meal. The handling of the plates, the serving of the food, the chinking of the cutlery, induced in her a kind of weariness. On these occasions, only Charles could lift her spirits. ‘I wonder,’ he said now, ‘who was the greatest fool who ever lived. Will Somers? Justice Shallow?’

‘Really, Charles. You forget yourself.’ Mrs Lamb was looking in the general direction of her husband, without seeming to single him out.

Mary laughed, and in the sudden movement a piece of potato lodged in her throat. She got up quickly, gasping for air; her mother rose from the table, but she waved her violently away. She did not want to be touched by her. She coughed the potato into her hand, and sighed.

‘Who will buy my sweet oranges?’ asked her father.

Mrs Lamb resumed her seat and continued eating her meal. ‘You came home very late, Charles.’

‘I was dining with friends, Ma.’

‘Is that what you call it?’

Charles had come back to Laystall Street very drunk. Mary waited up for him, as always, and as soon as she heard him trying vainly to find the lock she opened the door and held him as he staggered forward. He drank too much on two or three evenings each week; he was ‘sozzled’, as he would put it apologetically the next day, but Mary never rebuked him. She believed that she understood the reasons for his drunkenness, and even sympathised with them. Had she the courage or the opportunity, she would be drunk every day of her life. To be buried alive – was that not motive enough to drink? Charles was in any case a writer, and writers were well known for their indulgence. What of Sterne or Smollett? Not that her brother was ever loud or belligerent; he was as mild and as amiable as ever, except that he could not stand or speak with any degree of precision. ‘It is the cause, it is the cause,’ he had said to Mary the previous night. ‘Lead on.’

He had been drinking sweet wine and Burton ale at the Salutation and Cat in Hand Court, close by Lincoln’s Inn Fields, with two colleagues from the East India House, Tom Coates and Benjamin Milton. They were both very short, dapper, and dark-haired; they spoke quickly and laughed immoderately at each other’s remarks. Charles was a little younger than Coates, and a little older than Milton, and so he felt himself to be – as he put it to them – ‘the neutral medium through which galvanic forces can be conducted’. Coates spoke of Spinoza and of Schiller, of biblical inspiration and the romantic imagination; Milton spoke of geology and the ages of the earth, of fossils and dead seas. As he became drunker, Lamb imagined himself to be in the infancy of the world. What might be achieved, in a society that had such great intellects within it?

‘Did I wake you last night, Ma?’

‘I was already awake. Mr Lamb was restless.’ Her husband had a habit of trying to urinate out of the bedroom window on to the street beneath, a habit to which Mrs Lamb was strenuously opposed.

Excerpted from The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd Copyright © 2005 by Peter Ackroyd. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hot Milk
    Hot Milk
    by Deborah Levy
    When people reach their early 20s, they often choose to go abroad – they want to get away from...
  • Book Jacket: Ninety-Nine Stories of God
    Ninety-Nine Stories of God
    by Joy Williams
    I have to preface this review by saying that I am not a fan of religious fiction - not even books ...
  • Book Jacket: The Book That Matters Most
    The Book That Matters Most
    by Ann Hood
    BookBrowse First Impression reviewers appreciated the innovative structure of The Book That Matters ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
    by Bryn Greenwood

    A memorable coming-of-age tale about loyalty, defiance, and the power of love.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Ashes of Fiery Weather
    by Kathleen Donohoe

    "Admirers of Pete Hamill and Kate Atkinson will appreciate this gripping novel." - Library Journal

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Circling the Sun
by Paula McLain

An intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Lady Cop Makes Trouble

The Kopp Sisters Return!

One of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs returns in another gripping adventure based on fact.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Manners M (T) M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.