Books: Gum Boil & Toothache

THE SELECTED LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB (291 pp.)—Edited by T.S Matthews—Farrar, Straus & Cudahy ($4).

One day in 1796, London's Morning Chronicle reported a terrible tale. Naming no names, the paper described how a certain young lady of Holborn had "seized a case knife laying on the table'' and "with loud shrieks, pierced to the heart" her "helpless infirm mother." The jury's verdict: "lunacy." The Chronicle added a careful note: the report "that she has an insane brother also in confinement is without foundation."

The sister and brother were Mary and Charles Lamb. Charles was a...

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