A Modern Electra: Matricide and the Writings of Mary and Charles Lamb

  • Jane Aaron


From the vantage-point of feminist and psychoanalytic critical perspectives, this essay explores the long-term repercussions evident in the Lambs’ writings of that ‘day of horrors’ in September 1796 on which Mary Lamb, in a sudden fit of violent mania, killed their mother. Unlike the rest of their family, Charles Lamb remained loyal to his sister after the incident, and secured her release from incarceration through pledging himself to her care. From that date their close partnership took the form of a ‘sibling marriage’, affecting every aspect of their lives and work. Although they rarely refer directly to their mother in their writing, I argue that the manner of her death forms a subtext to many of their characteristic preoccupations; its influences can be traced not only in the children’s books they wrote together but also in Charles’s later writings, including his Essays of Elia.


Conscious Mind Violent Mania Close Partnership Actual Mother Mothering Presence 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane Aaron

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