The essays published in The Reflector like the one London and those on Garrick and Hogarth were received well. The original caption said "Mr Lamb having taken the liberty of addressing a slight compliment to Miss Kelly in his first volume, respectfully requests her acceptance of the collection.
The latter teaches ex cathedra, the former inveigles us into the ways of wisdom. One critic has described the literary essay as being " moulded by some central mood — whimsical, serious or satirical.
Lamb is not always decorous, and in this instance there is something repulsive, a lack of nice taste, which probably persuaded him to omit the piece from the Elia collection.
These two papers both go over what I feel are important aspects of the human experience. Of all the essayists it is perhaps Lamb who is the most autobiographic. Given the key, one can re-construct a great part of Lamb's life from Elia. Lamb seemed to have escaped much of this brutality, in part because of his amiable personality and in part because Samuel Salt, his father's employer and Lamb's sponsor at the school, was one of the institute's governors.
A picture of these visits can be glimpsed in the Elia essay Blakesmoor in H—shire. A preface is nothing but a talk with the reader; and they do nothing else. His essays have the charm of poetry. Canning's Liverpool speech.
The occasional epigram gives a fillip to the intellect and raises the commonplace to a higher plane without forcing the mind to be constantly on the alert.
Macaulay, Carlyle, and Matthew Arnold belong to another category of essayists.