The autobiographical exploitation of personality manifests itself in a great variety of ways among writers of the late 18 th and 17 the century. It is symptomatic of a significant change in the relation between the writer and society. The change is a complex one and can not be early defined as resulting from the tradition that shows society as enslaving and the free exercise of the uninhibited individual imagination as liberating. Perhaps it can be said that in the Romantic period the tendency was far for the writers to draw on his own personality either as an illuminating case history or as a gesture of defiance or scholarship or alienation rather than to objectify it in terms of s cause or a system. The growth of the familiar essay, with its highly personal often whimsical, flaunting of the writer’s tastes, prejudices presents another aspect of the Romantic exploration of personality. It is not unknown in earlier writing.
Charles Lamb himself, the master and in some degree the founder of the genre is a subtler and more interesting one to respect. He is not the cultivated gentleman of leisure relaxing in easy chat, harsh and even tragic. He was in large measure self-educated His views on life were worked out with an almost desperate geniality in order to preserve and develop a relish for the colour and individuality of experience which for him was the only alternative to despair. His sentimentality seen at its strongest in much in early work as ‘A Tale of Rosamund Gray'(1798), a melodramatic story of a girl ruined by a villain-is largely a defence mechanism: Lamb rejected the rational and Utopian systems so popular in his youth, and cultivated a mixture and restrained hedonism and humane feeling which appears in his essays, in his appreciation of certain physical pleasures, his zest for the picturesque and the oddly individual in human character.
Lamb was essentially Londoner, though had sympathy with and admiration for the moral views of his friend Wordsworth, he had nothing of Wordsworth’s feeling of nature. He was born in 1775 and died on 1834.’ last essays of Elia'(1833) artfully artless in their personal curious persons and places, his relish of the colour and variety of London life and characters or humorous amusing of roles and his carefully manipulated sentimentality. Recollection and nostalgia a very important role in his plays. The works for children which he produced together with his sister Mary un an effect to provide something less crudely moralising than the children’s literature of the period include ‘Jales from Shakespeare'(1807) and ‘The Adventures of Ulysses'(1808). They are not as far removed from the memorializing as he seems to have believed. Lamb’s essays remain his most characteristic and most important works.
Then comes William Hazlitt, another exceptionally talented writer was born in 1778 and dies in 1830. He is more vigorous and less mannered essayist than Lamb, an independent spirit who maintained his radicalism throughout his life. His political views brought savage reviews of his work from such critics as William Gifford of the Quarterly Review, who deliberately confounded personal and political with literary criticism of contemporaries but Hazlitt found it as hard to keep good terms with his friends as with his enemies throughout his troubled life.