Charles Lamb on Retirement

The Wall Street Journal has this weekend feature called “Masterpiece,” in which various English and other authors and their works are discussed.

This past weekend came up for discussion the essays and letters of Charles Lamb (1775-1834), whose primary sustenance came from being an accountant for the ur-global giant, The East India Company.  In his somewhat troubled and meager private life, he churned out memorable essays and letters.

Ah, the art of writing letters–where has that gone? Letter writing has, sadly, gone the way of civilization itself, but in Lamb’s letter-writing, I find a soulmate.  I can totally relate, especially to his musings on work and retirement and how he longed “for a few years between the grave and the desk,” but when retirement came (as it did for me two years ago when my position was eliminated before I was even 60 years old), he realized in a letter to Bernard Burton in 1829: “I pity you for over-work, but I assure you no-work is worse.  The mind preys on itself, the most unwholesome food.”

“Just so,” as my ancestors in Ireland would say over a pint.  “Just so.”

Sadly so.

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