Biographies of English Literature Writers

Biographies of English Literature Writers
English literature

Biographies of English Literature Writers

      By Majid farooq M.A English 
English literature 

English literature BOOK
Lectureship Guide
Subjective plus Objective

Note: It is requested to all the worthy teachers and students if you find mistakes please inform me to rectify those mistakes. Give your opinions and suggestions for the improvement of this bookl. Thanks
Majid Farooq from Arifwala, Pakistan
Cell no 923146685547


  1. Nobel Prize in ENGLISH Literature winners
    8. 100 Books & writers Name AND 60 FATHERS NAMES IN ENG LITERATURE
    10. IMPORTAN ELEGIES and 100 top novels and their writers names

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Short Biography William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564-1616). English poet and playwright –  Shakespeare is widely considered to be the greatest writer in the English language. He wrote 38 plays and 154 sonnets.
Short bio of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon on 23rd April 1564.
His father William was a successful local businessman, and his mother Mary was the daughter of a landowner. Relatively prosperous, it is likely the family paid for Williams education, although there is no evidence he attended university.
In 1582 William, aged only 18, married an older woman named Anne Hathaway. They had three children, Susanna, Hamnet and Juliet. Their only son Hamnet died aged just 11.
After his marriage, information about the life of Shakespeare is sketchy, but it seems he spent most of his time in London – writing and acting in his plays.
Due to some well-timed investments, Shakespeare was able to secure a firm financial background, leaving time for writing and acting. The best of these investments was buying some real estate near Stratford in 1605, which soon doubled in value.
It seemed Shakespeare didn’t mind being absent from his family – he only returned home during Lent when all the theatres were closed. It is thought that during the 1590s he wrote the majority of his sonnets. This was a time of prolific writing and his plays developed a good deal of interest and controversy. His early plays were mainly comedies (e.g. Much Ado about Nothing, A Midsummer’s Night Dream) and histories (e.g. Henry V)
By the early Seventeenth Century, Shakespeare had begun to write plays in the genre of tragedy. These plays, such as Hamlet, Othello and King Lear, often hinge on some fatal error or flaw in the lead character and provide fascinating insights into the darker aspects of human nature. These later plays are considered Shakespeare’s finest achievements.
Some academics, known as the “Oxfords,” claim that Shakespeare never actually wrote any plays. They contend Shakespeare was actually just a successful businessman, and for authorship suggest names such as Edward de Vere. Nevertheless there is evidence of Shakespeare in theatres as he received a variety of criticism from people such as Ben Johnson and Robert Greene. When writing an introduction to Shakespeare’s First Folio of published plays in 1623, Johnson wrote of Shakespeare:
“not of an age, but for all time”
Shakespeare the Poet
William Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets mostly in the 1590s. These short poems, deal with issues such as lost love. His sonnets have an enduring appeal due to his formidable skill with language and words.
“Let me not to the marriage of true mindsAdmit impediments. Love is not loveWhich alters when it alteration finds,Or bends with the remover to remove:”
– Sonnet CXVI
The Plays of Shakespeare
The plays of Shakespeare have been studied more than any other writing in the English language and have been translated into numerous languages. He was rare as a play-write for excelling in tragedies, comedies and histories. He deftly combined popular entertainment with an extraordinary poetic capacity for expression which is almost mantric in quality.
 “This above all: to thine ownself be true,And it must follow, as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to any man.Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!”
– Lord Polonius, Hamlet Act I, Scene 3
During his lifetime, Shakespeare was not without controversy, but he also received lavish praise for his plays which were very popular and commercially successful.
His plays have retained an enduring appeal throughout history and the world. Some of his most popular plays include:
• Twelfth Night
• Henry V
• Romeo and Juliet
• Macbeth
• Hamlet
• King Lear
• Othello
“All the world’s a stage,and all the men and women merely players:they have their exits and their entrances;and one man in his time plays many parts…”
—As You Like It, Act II,
Death of Shakespeare
Shakespeare died in 1616; it is not clear how he died, and numerous suggestions have been put forward. John Ward, the local vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford (where Shakespeare is buried), writes in a diary account that:
“Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and it seems drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted.”
In 1616, there was an outbreak of typhus (“The new fever”) which may have been the cause. The average life expectancy of someone born in London, England in the Sixteenth Century was about 35 years old, Shakespeare died age 52.
Shakespeare’s Epitaph
Good friend for Jesus sake forbeareTo digg the dust encloased heareBlessed by y man y spares hes stonesAnd curst be he y moves my bones
The Lord TennysonFRS

1869 Carbon print by Julia Margaret Cameron
6 August 1809Somersby, Lincolnshire, England
6 October 1892(1892-10-06) (aged 83)Lurgashall, Sussex, England[1]
Poet Laureate
Alma mater
Trinity College, Cambridge
Literary movement
Emily Sellwood (m. 1850)
• Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson
• Hon. Lionel Tennyson
lfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson,
FRS (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria’s reign and remains one of the most popular British poets.[3]
Tennyson excelled at penning short lyrics, such as “Break, Break, Break”, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, “Tears, Idle Tears”, and “Crossing the Bar”. Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes, such as Ulysses, although In Memoriam A.H.H. was written to commemorate his friend Arthur Hallam, a fellow poet and student at Trinity College, Cambridge, after he died of a stroke at the age of 22.[4] Tennyson also wrote some notable blank verse including Idylls of the King, “Ulysses”, and “Tithonus”. During his career, Tennyson attempted drama, but his plays enjoyed little success. A number of phrases from Tennyson’s work have become commonplaces of the English language, including “Nature, red in tooth and claw” (In Memoriam A.H.H.), “‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all”, “Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die”, “My strength is as the strength of ten, / Because my heart is pure”, “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”, “Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers”, and “The old order changeth, yielding place to new”. He is the ninth most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.[
John Donne (/ˈdʌn/ DUN; 22 January 1573[1] – 31 March 1631)[2] was an English poet and cleric in the Church of England.
John Donne

John Donne
(1573-01-22)22 January 1573[1]London, England
31 March 1631(1631-03-31) (aged 58)[2]London, England
Poet, priest, lawyer
Alma mater
Oxford University
Satire, love poetry, elegy, sermons
Love, sexuality, religion, death
Literary movement
Metaphysical poetry

He is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His works are noted for their strong, sensual style and include sonnets, love poems, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs, satires and sermons. His poetry is noted for its vibrancy of language and inventiveness of metaphor, especially compared to that of his contemporaries. Donne’s style is characterised by abrupt openings and various paradoxes, ironies and dislocations. These features, along with his frequent dramatic or everyday speech rhythms, his tense syntax and his tough eloquence, were both a reaction against the smoothness of conventional Elizabethan poetry and an adaptation into English of European baroque and mannerist techniques. His early career was marked by poetry that bore immense knowledge of English society and he met that knowledge with sharp criticism. Another important theme in Donne’s poetry is the idea of true religion, something that he spent much time considering and about which he often theorized. He wrote secular poems as well as erotic and love poems. He is particularly famous for his mastery of metaphysical conceits.[3]
Despite his great education and poetic talents, Donne lived in poverty for several years, relying heavily on wealthy friends. He spent much of the money he inherited during and after his education on womanising, literature, pastimes, and travel. In 1601, Donne secretly married Anne More, with whom he had twelve children.[4] In 1615, he became an Anglican priest, although he did not want to take Anglican orders. He did so because King James I persistently ordered it. In 1621, he was appointed the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. He also served as a member of Parliament in 1601 and in 1614.
Samuel Johnson Biography
Samuel Johnson (usually known as Dr Johnson) (18 September 1709– 13 December 1784) was an English author, poet, moralist and literary critic. One of Dr Johnson’s greatest contributions was publishing, in 1747, The Dictionary of the English Language.
“Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.”
— Samuel Johnson
Short Bio of Samuel Johnson

Johnson was born in Lichfield, Staffordshire into a family of booksellers.
He was educated at Lichfield Grammar School before going to Pembroke College, Oxford. However, due to a lack of funds, he left after a year – never completing his degree. After Oxford, he worked as a teacher in Market Bosworth and Birmingham. In 1735, he married Elizabeth Porter, a widow 20 years older than him. Together they opened a school at Edial near Lichfield, but it later closed due to a lack of money. The Johnson’s then left for London, where he began spending more time working as a writer.
He made a living writing for the Gentleman’s Magazine – a report on Parliament. He also wrote a tragedy, Irene, and some attempts at poetry.
Johnson was also employed to catalogue the extensive library of Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford. This gave Johnson the opportunity to indulge his great love of reading and the English language. He was inspired to start working on a comprehensive dictionary of the English language. It would take him eight years, but it was considered to be his finest achievement. Though other dictionaries were in existence, the ‘Johnson Dictionary of the English language’ was a huge step forward in its comprehensiveness and quality.
Johnson was a prolific writer. For two years he almost single-handedly wrote a journal – ‘The Rambler’ full of moral essays.
In 1752, his wife ‘Tetty’ died, plunging him into depression, which proved difficult for him to escape during the rest of his life.
After the publication of his dictionary in 1755, he began to be more appreciated by literary society. He was awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University, and in 1760 was given a pension of £300 a year from George III. This enabled him to engage in more social and cultural activities. He was friends with many of the leading cultural figures of the day, such as Sir Joshua Reynolds a painter, and the writer Oliver Goldsmith.
In 1764, he met the young Scot, James Boswell who would become his celebrated biographer. Together they toured the Hebrides, which Johnson wrote about in ‘A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland’, (1775) James Boswell wrote about Johnson in great detail, including information on Johnson’s unusual mannerisms, such as odd gestures and tics (which may have been a form of Tourette’s syndrome)
Johnson also embarked on an ambitious project – “Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets” (10 vols) and an influential edition of Shakespeare’s plays.
“Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.”
– Samuel Johnson
Jane Austen Biography

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) English author who wrote romantic fiction combined with social realism. Her famous novels include: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816).
Early Life of Jane Austen
Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire on 16th December 1775. She was the seventh daughter of an eight child family. Her father, George Austen, was a vicar and lived on a reasonable income of £600 a year. However, although they were middle class, they were not rich; her father would have been unable to give much to help her daughters get married. Jane was brought up with her five brothers and her elder sister Cassandra. (another brother, Edward, was adopted by a rich, childless couple and went to live with them). Jane was close to her siblings, especially Cassandra, to whom she was devoted. The two sisters shared a long correspondence throughout her life; much of what we know about Jane comes from these letters, although, unfortunately Cassandra burnt a number of these on Jane’s death.
Jane was educated at Oxford and later a boarding school in Reading. In the early 1800s, two of Jane’s brother’s joined the navy leaving to fight in the Napoleonic wars; they would go on to become admirals. Her naval connections can be seen in novels like Mansfield Park. After the death of her father in 1805, Jane, with her mother and sister returned to Hampshire. In 1809, her brother Edward, who had been brought up by the Knights, invited the family to the estate he had inherited at Chawton. It was in the country house of Chawton, that Jane was able to produce some of her greatest novels.
Novels of Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s novels are a reflection of her outlook on life. She spent most of her life insulated from certain sections of society. Her close friends were mainly her family, and those of similar social standing. It is not surprising then that her novels focused on two or three families of the middle or upper classes. Most of her novels were also based on the idyll of rural country houses that Jane was so fond of.
Her novels also focus on the issue of gaining a suitable marriage. In the Nineteenth Century, marriage was a big issue facing women and men; often financial considerations were paramount in deciding marriages. As an author, Jane satirised these financial motivations, for example, in Pride and Prejudice the mother is ridiculed for her ambitions to marry her daughters for maximum financial remuneration. Jane, herself remained single throughout her life. Apart from brief flirtations, Jane remained single, and appeared to have little interest in getting married. (unlike the characters of her novels)
The strength of Jane’s novels was her ability to gain penetrating insights into the character and nature of human relationships, from even a fairly limited range of environments and characters. In particular, she helped to redefine the role and aspirations of middle class women like herself. Through providing a witty satire of social conventions, she helped to liberate contemporary ideas of what women could strive for.
During her lifetime the novels were reasonably popular. One of her strongest supporters was Walter Scott. He said of her novels:
“That young lady has a talent for describing the involvements of feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with.“
King George IV actually requested for one novel to be dedicated to him. Emma is therefore dedicated to the King, even though Jane did not maintain any particular liking towards the King.
Not all were favourable to Jane Austern. The literary critic and wit Mark Twain said:
“Jane Austen? Why, I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.“
Death of Jane Austen
Jane died in 1816, aged only 41. She died of Addison’s disease, a disorder of the adrenal glands. She was buried at Winchester Cathedral.
There are two museums dedicated to Jane Austen.
• The Jane Austen Centre in Bath and
• The Jane Austen’s House Museum, located in Chawton cottage, in Hampshire, where she lived from 1809 –1816
In 2005, Pride and Prejudice was voted best British novel of all time in a BBC poll.
Jane was also voted as one of the Top 100 greatest Britons.
Charles Dickens biography
Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) Victorian novelist who created some of the most memorable characters in English Literature, while also criticising the worst excesses of Victorian society. Novels included Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and David Copperfield.
Early life
Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, to John and Elizabeth Dickens.

As a child, Charles experienced the fickle hands of fate; he was first taught at a private school before being removed because of his family’s financial hardship.
In fact, his father’s debts were so bad, the whole family (apart from the young Charles was sent to the debtor’s prison at Marshalsea (this would later be the setting for one of his novels – Little Dorrit). However, although Charles escaped detention in the debtors’ prison, he was made to work long, 10 hour days, at a local boot blacking factory. The hard and dangerous work left a lasting impression on Charles Dickens, who would later incorporate in his writings a sense of social injustice that was endemic in Victorian Britain.
“I had no advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no assistance, no support, of any kind, from anyone, that I can call to mind, as I hope to go to heaven!” – from David Copperfield.
Charles managed to escape the grind of factory work, by training to be a shorthand writer and gaining employment as a journalist – reporting on court cases.
In 1833, he became a parliamentary journalist for the Morning Chronicle. The young Dickens was fascinated with the Houses of Parliament, though he was often left with a lowly impression of the MPs. Shortly after this, he began writing his first serialised stories, published under a pseudonym – Boz.
In 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth and also in that year, he saw the first publication of ‘The Pickwick Papers’ His first book proved to be a great seller, and this enabled him to become a full time writer.
As well as writing popular novels, Charles Dickens took great interest in the social issues of the day. He toured both Europe and the United States speaking against slavery and the various social injustices that he saw. He even founded his own paper – The Daily News. This was its first editorial:
“The principles advocated in The Daily News will be principles of progress and improvement; of education, civil and religious liberty, and equal legislation. Principles, such as its conductors believe the advancing spirit of the time requires: the condition of the country demands: and justice, reason and experience legitimately sanction.”
The Daily News (21st January 1846)
Charles Dickens has become one of the most popular writers in English. In particular, his novels are brimming with colourful and eccentric characters which leave a lasting impression. He achieved this through his vivid memory of the various people he had met through his life, but also he added a touch of fantasy and exaggeration with his vivid descriptive style.
There are various themes which run throughout his writings, which often reflect a degree of autobiography. Dickens loved the Rags to Riches stories, exemplified by Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. He frequently highlighted the worst excesses of Victorian society and made a passionate case for a more caring and moral society.
For his attacks on social injustice, Dickens was considered a “Radical” of his time. Though in a later essay by the socialist, George Orwell, Orwell questioned his lack of alternatives:
“In Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Dickens attacked English institutions with a ferocity that has never since been approached. Yet he managed to do it without making himself hated, and, more he has become a national institution himself. In its attitude towards Dickens the English public has always been a little like the elephant which feels a blow with a walking-stick as a delightful tickling. Dickens seems to have succeeded in attacking everybody and antagonizing nobody. Naturally this makes one wonder whether after all there was something unreal in his attack upon society.”
– George Orwell, Charles Dickens 1939
Charles Dickens had ten children with his wife, but, became estranged from her and ended his life living with his mistress Ellen Ternan. Also towards the end of his life, in  June 1865, he was involved in the tragic Staplehurst rail crash where he narrowly avoided injury.
Dickens died on June 8th, 1870 after a stroke. He was writing a book ‘Edwin Drood’. He had wished to be buried at Rochester Cathedral in a simple and private manner, but contrary to his wishes, he was buried at Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.
His epitaph read:
“To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England’s most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.”
Oscar Wilde Biography

Oscar Wilde is one of the most iconic figures from late Victorian society. Enjoying a meteoric rise to the top of society, his wit, humour and intelligence shine through his plays and writings. For his sexuality he suffered the indignity and shame of imprisonment. For a long time his name was synonymous with scandal and intrigue. However with changing social attitudes he is remembered with great affection for his biting social criticism, wit and linguistic skills.
“To get back my youth I would do anything  in the world, except take exercise, get up early or be respectable.”
– Oscar Wilde
As Stephen Fry wrote of Oscar Wilde.
“What of Wilde the man? He stood for Art. He stood for nothing less all his life.. He is still enormously underestimated as an artist and a thinker.. Wilde was a great writer and a great man.”
Short biography Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was born on 16th October 1854 in Dublin, Ireland. His parents were well known and attracted a degree of gossip for their extravagant lifestyles. In 1964, his father Wille Wilde was knighted for his services to medicine. However his pride in receiving this honour was overshadowed by an allegation of rape by one of his patients. Although never proved, it cast a shadow over William Wilde.
Oscar Wilde proved to be a student of great talent. He was awarded a scholarship to Trinity College Dublin. Here he studied the classics, in particular developing an interest in the Greek philosophers and the Hellenistic view of life. From Trinity College he won a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford University. He enjoyed his time in Oxford and was able to develop his poetic sensibilities and love of literature. He also became more conscious of his bisexual nature. For his increasing “feminine” dress he often received stick from more “traditional” Oxford students. He was a brilliant scholar, but also increasingly rebellious. In one academic year he got rusticated for turning up to College three weeks after the start of term. Thus, after a while he lost interest in pursuing an academic career in Oxford and moved to London. It was in London that he was able to skilfully enter into high society, soon becoming well known as a playwright and noted wit. Oscar Wilde became famous throughout London society. He was one of the early “celebrities” – in some respects he was famous for being famous. His dress was a target for satire in the cartoons, but Wilde didn’t seem to mind. In fact he learnt the art of self-publicity and seemed to revel in it, at least up until his trial in 1898.
Oscar Wilde’s trial gripped the nation, the subject matter a source of intense gossip and speculation. For his “crime” of homosexual acts, Wilde was subject to two years hard labour in Wandsworth and then Reading Gaol. It is no understatement to say this experience deeply shocked and affected the previously ebullient Wilde. In some respects he never really recovered; on his release, he left for Paris where he lived in comparative anonymity. However he retained his wit and continued to write, heavily influenced by his chastening experiences. Of these post gaol writings, his poem “Ballad of Reading Gaol” is perhaps the most well known, illustrating a new dimension to Wilde’s writing.
George Bernard Shaw Biography
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950). Irish playwright, author, political activist.

George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin 1856. He was sent to various schools in Dublin, but developed a great dislike for the formalised education systems and widespread use of corporal punishment which was prevalent at the time.
After working as a clerk in Dublin for several years, in 1876, Shaw left for London to join his mother who was living there. In London he began reading extensively and writing his first novels. In London he became increasingly devoted to the ideals of socialism. He joined the Fabian society and became one of its leading writers and activists, inspiring and helping activists such as Annie Besant. With fellow Fabians such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb, he helped found the London School of Economics (LSE) after receiving private bequests.
In 1898 he married Charlotte Payne Townshend, a fellow Irish Fabian. The marriage was never consummated and they remained childless. In 1906, they moved to Ayot St Lawrence in Hertfordshire, where they lived for the remainder of their lives.
By the 1890s, Shaw’s plays were being performed in London. The income from his plays enabled him to devote his life to writing. Like his contemporary, Oscar Wilde, Shaw’s plays were popular for their biting wit and humour. His plays were in contrast to many Victorian plays which tended to be sentimental, escapist and lacking in satire. Shaw wrote he was influenced by Henrik Ibsen who helped pioneer more realistic modern drama.
As a committed Socialist, Shaw infused his plays with his concepts of social justice and issues of class. For example, one of his best known plays Pygmalion (1912–13) (later made into film and musical My Fair Lady) deals with the class divide which characterised British society at the time. However, to the disappointment of Shaw, his plays were mainly enjoyed as entertainment, rather than political commentary.
As well as plays, Shaw wrote novels, short stories and was a noted literary critic. In particular, he was influential in criticising the Victorian preference for performing edited Shakespeare plays.
By the start of the First World War, Shaw was a well known playwright, so his strident opposition to the First World War gained him much criticism. He felt governments had coerced the population into needless wars. In Heartbreak House (1919) he said.
“It is said that every people has the Government it deserves. It is more to the point that every Government has the electorate it deserves; for the orators of the front bench can edify or debauch an ignorant electorate at will. Thus our democracy moves in a vicious circle of reciprocal worthiness and unworthiness.”
Though a democratic socialist, he became despairing of Western democracy. He became more sympathetic to undemocratic Communism. In 1931, he visited Stalinist Russia and praised it for offering great opportunities to workers. He claimed the Great Depression was worse than anything in Soviet Russia.
One of his most critically acclaimed plays was Saint Joan (1923) about the life of Joan of Arc. This play contributed towards his Nobel Prize in Literature 1925. (Nobel Prize)
Shaw was also a proponent of the theory of Eugenics, a supporter of vegetarianism and sympathetic to Irish home rule. He was not a formal member of any religion. Describing his religious views
“(my) religious convictions and scientific views cannot at present be more specifically defined than as those of a believer in creative revolution.”
G.B.Shaw – Time Magazine
He was close friends with G.K.Chesterton a Church of England convert to Roman Catholicism.
Shaw is best remembered for his iconic wit. He is one of the most quoted authors and are frequently mentioned. His wit led to the creation of an adjective “Shavian” to describe a Shaw like witticism.
“My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.”
Virginia Woolf Biography

Virginia Woolf was a British modernist writer. She was a prominent figure in inter-war literary circles and a member of the Bloomsbury Group.

She was born in London, in 1882. Her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was a notable historian, author and editor of the Dictionary of National biography. Her mother Julia Stephen was also well connected in cultural circles and acted as a model for the Pre-Raphaelite artists and photographers.
Virginia was educated at her Kensington home by her parents with her step-brothers and step sisters. She later took lessons at the Ladies’ department of Kings College, London. Her brothers went to Cambridge, and although Virginia resented not being able to study at Cambridge, through her brothers, she later became involved in the circle of Cambridge graduates.
When Virginia was 13, the death of her mother, left a profound mark on her, and she had a nervous breakdown. This nervous breakdown was the beginning of a lifetime of mood swings – manic depression and she frequently sought treatment for her mental instability, but struggled to find any cure.
These mood swings made social life more difficult, but she still became friendly with some of the leading literary and cultural figures of the day, including Rupert Brooke, John Maynard Keynes, Clive Bell and Saxon Sydney-Turner. These group of literary figures became known as the Bloomsbury Group.
During this time she had an active correspondence with suffragettes such as Mrs Fawcett, Emily Pankhurst and others. Although she never took part in the activities of the suffragettes she wrote her clear support for the aims of female emancipation.
Note: It is requested to all the worthy teachers and students if you find mistakes please inform me to rectify those mistakes. Give your opinions and suggestions for the improvement of this bookl. Thanks
Majid Farooq from Arifwala, Pakistan
Cell no 923146685547
In 1912, Virginia married writer and critic Leonard Woolf, and though he was poor, the marriage was happy. Leonard was Jewish, and she was rather proud of his Jewishness – even though she has been accused of some anti-Semitism in her works – often depicting Jews in a stereotypical way. The couple were both appalled by the rise of fascism in the 1930s, as they were both on Hitler’s list of undesirable cultural figures.
Virginia developed a love of literature from an early age, she had free access to her father’s library, and was an avid reader. She began working as a journalist, writing articles for the Times Literary Supplement in the early 1900s. By 1915, she had written her first novel. – The Voyage Out. In 1917, Virginia and Leonard founded the Hogarth Press which published her novels and later works by other writers, such as T.S.Eliot and Lauren van der Post.
She was considered a modernist author, for her experimentation in stream of consciousness writing, reminiscent of the period. Often her novels were based on quite ordinary, even banal, situations. But, she sought to explore the underlying psychological and emotional motives of the characters involved. She explored ideas of sexual ambivalence (she herself had a brief lesbian affair with Vita Sackville-West,) shell shock from First World War, and the rapid changes of society.
Her three most important novels were Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and The Waves (1931)
She was considered an important feminist writer and in A Room of One’s Own (1929), she discussed women’s writing in an economic and social underpinning.
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
A Room of One’s Own (1929)
During the Second World War, she became increasingly depressed, due to a combination of the blitz and the return of her mental demons. Fearing she was going mad again, she took her own life, filling her pockets with stones and jumping into the River Ouse.Citation : Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Virginia Wolf“, Oxford, 3 Feb. 2013
Virginia Woolf Quotes
A Room of One’s Own (1929)
The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.
Ch. 1 (p. 17)Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe?
Ch. 2 (p. 26)
Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.
Ch. 2 (p. 35)
I would venture to guess than Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
Ch. 3 (p. 51)
Very often misquoted as “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”
For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty.
Ch. 3 (p. 51)
Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
Ch. 3 (p. 58)
The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.
Ch. 3 (p. 72)
Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.
Ch. 4 (p. 90)
The Waves (1931)
But look – he flicks his hand to the back of his neck. For such gesture one falls hopelessly in love for a lifetime.p. 30
Here on this ring of grass we have sat together, bound by the tremendous power of some inner compulsion. The trees wave, the clouds pass. The time approaches when these soliloquies shall be shared. We shall not always give out a sound like a beaten gong as one sensation strikes and then another. Children, our lives have been gongs striking; clamour and boasting; cries of despair; blows on the nape of the neck in gardens.pp. 39-40
The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942)
Once you begin to take yourself seriously as a leader or as a follower, as a modern or as a conservative, then you become a self-conscious, biting, and scratching little animal whose work is not of the slightest value or importance to anybody.
The Moment and Other Essays (1948)
‘If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.
Granite and Rainbow (1958)
The extraordinary woman depends on the ordinary woman. It is only when we know what were the conditions of the average woman’s life … it is only when we can measure the way of life and the experience of life made possible to the ordinary woman that we can account for the success or failure of the extraordinary woman as a writer.“Women and Fiction”
D. H. Lawrence Biography
“For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.”
– D.H.Lawrence
David Herbert Richards Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930) was an influential writer, poet and literary critic. Highly controversial during his life, since his death he has gained a widespread esteem and is seen as one of the great modern novelists.

He was born in a poor Nottinghamshire mining town. He was an outstanding pupil and gained a rare county council scholarship which enabled him to continue his studies at Nottingham High School. After working for a brief spell in a factory, he was able to get a teaching certificate and gained employment teaching.
In 1912 he met Frieda Weekley (nee von Richthofen), and although she was married with three children they fell in love and eloped to the French town of Metz on the border of Germany. They would remain faithful life partners for the rest of their lives.
D.H.Lawrence was an unconventional thinker who could see beyond the prevailing orthodoxy of the day. For example, he was profoundly anti-militarism, and during the patriotic fervor of the First World War his pacifism made him deeply unpopular (especially because he also had a German wife)
He was suspected of spying whilst living in Cornwall and forced to leave. At the end of the First World War he began his long and frequent travels around the world. He termed this period his ‘savage exile’ He travelled all around the world including various scenic parts of Italy and for several years in Mexico – where he hoped to establish a utopian community. However, a period of pneumonia ,which affected him throughout his life, forced him to return to Europe. In died in 1930, aged just 45.
His notable works include: Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. During the period, many commentators felt D.H.Lawrence had wasted his talents in producing ‘pornographic’ works for which he became renowned. At the time of his death, few save E.M.Forster, A. Huxley and a few close friends defended his reputation as a great writer. However, following his death, opinion slowly changed as people came to recognise his contribution to modernist literature and the powerful impression that his novels left on the reader.
A frequent theme of his works was the impact of modernity on man. He was particularly interested in how modern life had given supremacy to the mind. Though he is most famous for depicting sexuality in his books (he became a household name following the 1960 case to publish Lady Chatterley’s Lover) D.H.Lawrence was also interested in a range of subjects from psychology to religion.
In the face of formidable initial disadvantages and life-long delicacy, poverty that lasted for three quarters of his life and hostility that survives his death, he did nothing that he did not really want to do, and all that he most wanted to do he did. He went all over the world, he owned a ranch, he lived in the most beautiful corners of Europe, and met whom he wanted to meet and told them that they were wrong and he was right. He painted and made things, and sang, and rode. He wrote something like three dozen books, of which even the worst page dances with life that could be mistaken for no other man’s, while the best are admitted, even by those who hate him, to be unsurpassed. Without vices, with most human virtues, the husband of one wife, scrupulously honest, this estimable citizen yet managed to keep free from the shackles of civilization and the cant of literary cliques. He would have laughed lightly and cursed venomously in passing at the solemn owls—each one secretly chained by the leg—who now conduct his inquest. To do his work and lead his life in spite of them took some doing, but he did it, and long after they are forgotten, sensitive and innocent people—if any are left—will turn Lawrence’s pages and will know from them what sort of a rare man Lawrence was.
– Catherine Carswell summing up his life in a letter to the periodical Time and Tide published on 16 March 1930.
Agatha Christie Biography
Dame Agatha Christie, (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976)

Agatha Christie was an English writer of crime and romantic novels. She is best remembered for her detective stories including the two diverse characters of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. She is considered to be the best selling writer of all time. Only the Bible is known to have outstripped her collected sales of roughly four billion world wide copies. Her works have been translated into more languages than any other individual writer.
Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon 1890 to Clarissa Margaret Boehmer and a wealthy American stockbroker. She was brought up by both her mother and her sister. In the First World war, she trained and worked as a nurse helping to treat wounded soldiers. She also became educated in the field of pharmacy. She recalled her time as a nurse with great fondness, saying it was one of the most rewarding jobs she ever undertook.
Agatha Christie’s married an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps – Archibald Christie in December 1914. The marriage was somewhat turbulent and ended in divorce in 1928, two years after Archibald had begun an affair. In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. The circumstances were never really resolved and it created widespread media interest in the disappearance of this famous novelist. She was eventually discovered in a Harrogate hotel eleven days later. Though Agatha Christie never said why, it was probably a combination of shock over her mother’s death and the discovery of her husband’s affair. In 1930, she married her second husband, Max Mallowan. This marriage was happier, though her only child, Rosalind Hicks, came from her first marriage.
Writing Career of Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie began writing in 1920, after the end of the First World War. Her first story was The Mysterious Affair at Styles, (1920). This featured the soon to be famous detective – Hercule Poirot, who at the time was portrayed as a Belgian refugee from the Great War. The book sold well and helped meet the public’s great appetite for detective novels. It was a genre that had been popularised through Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories at the turn of the century.
Agatha Christie went on to write over 40 novels featuring the proud and immaculate Hercule Poirot. Like Conan Doyle, Christie had no great love for her own creation – Poirot seemed to be admired by the public more than the writer herself. Agatha Christie preferred her other great detective – the quiet but effective old lady – Miss Marple. The character of Miss Marple was based on the traditional English country lady – and her own relatives.
The plot of Agatha Christies novels could be described as formulaic. Murders were committed by ingenious methods – often involving poison, which Agatha Christie had great knowledge of. After interrogating all the main suspects, the detective would bring all the participants into some drawing room before explaining who was the murderer. The psychological suspense of the novels, and the fact readers feel they have a good chance of solving the crime undoubtedly added to the popularity of the books.
During the Second World War, Christie worked in the pharmacy of the University College London, which gave her ideas for some of her murder methods. After the war, her books continued to grow in international popularity. In 1952, her play The Mousetrap was debuted at the Ambassador’s Theatre in London, and has been performed without a break ever since. Her success led to her being honoured in the New Year’s honour list. In 1971 she was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire.
She died in 1976 aged 85.
Ernest Hemingway Biography

Ernest Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American author and journalist whose unique, understated writing style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction and culture.
Hemingway lived through the major conflicts of Europe during the first half of the Twentieth-Century. His war experiences led to powerful accounts, which described the horrors of modern war. Two major books include; A Farewell to Arms (1929) – about the First World War, and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) – about the Spanish Civil War. Many of his books are considered classics of American literature.
Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois. After leaving school, he worked as a journalist for the Kansas City City Star. However, after a few months, he enlisted with the Red Cross to volunteer as an ambulance driver. He was sent to the Italian front where he saw the horrors of the trench war. In 1918, he was seriously wounded from mortar fire and he was sent home to recuperate. He was awarded the Italian Silver Medal of bravery for helping an Italian soldier – despite his injuries. He later wrote a fictional book, based on his experiences in the 1929 novel – A Farwell to Arms. The main character in the book is an ambulance driver who becomes disillusioned with the war.
After recovering from his injuries, he moved to Chicago and then Paris, where he spent much of the inter-war years. He worked as a correspondent for the Toronto Star and became acquainted with many modernist writers, such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound who lived in Paris at the time.
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
In 1937, he went to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil war. He advocated international support for the Popular Front – who were fighting the fascist regime led by Franco. He later wrote a book – For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), which captures the struggles and brutality of the Spanish civil war. During the Second World War, he continued to work as a foreign correspondent. He was present at the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris.
In the 1950s, Hemingway was involved in two plane crashes which left him severely injured and in pain for the rest of his life. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and in October 1954, Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for:
“his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style.”
Hemingway’s style had some similarities to other modernist writers. It was a reaction against the more elaborate, turgid style of the nineteenth century. Hemingway’s writing was direct and minimalist – often leaving things unstated, but at the same time profoundly moving for bringing the reader into the heart of the story and experience.
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“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway termed his style the Iceberg theory.
“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.”
—Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon
Hemingway said the facts float above the water, but the structure is kept out of sight. Behind the minimalist prose is great effort, but the result is simplicity, immediacy and clarity.
In 1959 he moved from Cuba to Ketchum Idaho. However, tragically tormented by the pain of the plane crashes, he committed suicide in the summer of 1961.
He was married four times.
“There are events which are so great that if a writer has participated in them his obligation is to write truly rather than assume the presumption of altering them with invention.”
– Ernest Hemingway – Preface to The Great Crusade (1940) by Gustav Regler
Selected list of works by Hemingway
• Indian Camp (1926)
•  The Sun Also Rises (1926)
•  A Farewell to Arms (1929)
• The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (1935)
•  For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
•  The Old Man and the Sea (1951)
• A Moveable Feast (1964, posthumous)
•  True at First Light (1999)
William Butler Yeats (/ˈjeɪts/; 13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, he helped to found the Abbey Theatre, and in his later years served as an Irish Senator for two terms. Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn and others.
• He was born in Sandymount, Ireland and educated there and in London. He spent childhood holidays in County Sligo and studied poetry from an early age when he became fascinated by Irish legends and the occult. These topics feature in the first phase of his work, which lasted roughly until the turn of the 20th century. His earliest volume of verse was published in 1889, and its slow-paced and lyrical poems display Yeats’s debts to Edmund Spenser, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the poets of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. From 1900, his poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life. In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Abbey Theatre

Yeats photographed in 1908
In 1899, Yeats, Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn and George Moore began the Irish Literary Theatre to hold Irish and Celtic plays.[47] The ideals of the Abbey were derived from the avant-garde French theatre, which sought to express the “ascendancy of the playwright rather than the actor-manager à l’anglais.”[48][49] The group’s manifesto, which Yeats wrote, declared, “We hope to find in Ireland an uncorrupted & imaginative audience trained to listen by its passion for oratory … & that freedom to experiment which is not found in the theatres of England, & without which no new movement in art or literature can succeed.”[50]

Biography George Orwell
Early Life of George Orwell

George Orwell, (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950) has proved to be one of the twentieth century’s most influential and thought provoking writers. His relatively small numbers of books have created intense literary and political criticism. Orwell was a socialist, but at the same time he did not fit into any neat ideology. At times, he exasperated the more doctrinaire left wingers with his enthusiasm for taking opposing views. He was foremost a political writer, but for Orwell his object was not to promote a certain point of view, but to arrive at the truth; exposing the hypocrisy and injustice prevalent in society.
Orwell in Burma
Orwell had a fascinating life story. Brought up by in a poor, aspiring middle class family, Orwell was educated at Eton and left with firmly held “middle class” values, but at the same time a sense of unease with his social position. For want of a better job, Orwell took a job with the Burmese civil service. It was here in Burma, that Orwell would begin to assert his independence from his privileged upbringing. Revealingly, Orwell later told how he found himself rooting for the local population, and despising the Imperial ideology which he represented. He resigned from his position in 1927. In an essay Shooting the Elephant he describes he feelings on Burma:
“Theoretically and secretly of course, I was always for the Burmese and all against the oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear” (1)
It was in the nature of George Orwell to try and see a situation from other people’s point of view. He was unhappy at accepting the conventional social wisdom. In fact, he grew to despise his middle class upbringing so much he decided to spend time as a tramp. He wanted to experience life from the view of the gutter. His vivid experiences are recorded in his book “Down and out in Paris and London”. No longer could Orwell be described as a “Champagne Socialist”; by living with the poorest and underprivileged,  he gained a unique insight into the practical workings of working class ideas and working class politics.
The Road to Wigan Pier
In the middle of the great depression, Orwell undertook another experience travelling to Wigan; an industrial town in Lancashire experiencing the full effects of mass unemployment and poverty. Orwell freely admitted how, as a young child, he was brought up to despise the working class. He vividly tells how he was obsessed with the idea that the working classes smelt:
“At a distance.. I could agonise over their sufferings, but I still hated them and despised them when I came anywhere near them.” (2)
The Road to Wigan Pier offered a penetrating insight into the condition of the working classes. It was also a right of passage for Orwell to live amongst the people he had once, from a distance, despised. The Road to Wigan Pier inevitably had a political message; but characteristically of Orwell it was not all pleasing to the left. For example, it was less than flattering towards the Communist party. This was despite the book being promoted by a mostly Communist organisation – The Left Book club.
Orwell and the Spanish Civil War
It was fighting in the Spanish Civil war that Orwell came to really despise Communist influences. In 1936, Orwell volunteered to fight for the fledgling Spanish Republic, who at the time were fighting the Fascist forces of Gen Franco. It was a conflict that polarised nations. To the left, the war was a symbol of a real socialist revolution, based on the principles of equality and freedom. It was for these ideals that many international volunteers, from around the world, went to Spain to fight on behalf of the Republic. Orwell found himself in the heart of the Socialist revolution in Barcelona. He was assigned to an Anarchist – Trotskyist party – P.O.U.M. More than most other left wing parties, they believed in the ideal of a real Marxist revolution. To members of the P.O.U.M, the war was not just about fighting the Fascist menace but also delivering a Socialist revolution for the working classes. In his book, “Homage to Catalonia” Orwell writes of his experiences; he notes the inefficiency with which the Spanish fought even wars. He was enthused by the revolutionary fervour of some of his party members; however, one of the overriding impressions was his perceived betrayal of the Republic, by the Stalinist backed Communist party.
Geoffrey Chaucer Biography
“Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.”
– Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – October 25, 1400) was an English writer, poet, and philosopher. He is famous for writing Canterbury Tales which were not finished. He is one of the first writers to write in English and is considered the father of English literature
Early life

Chaucer was born in London. His father, John, and grandfather sold wine in London. His merchant family were relatively wealthy and when he was only 12 years old, his father was kidnapped by an autn.
By 1357 Chaucer was a page to Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster, wife of Lionel, 1st Duke of Clarence. In 1360, he was captured by the French near Reims during a battle in the Hundred Years War. He was then ransomed and released. King Edward III gave £16 towards his release. Chaucer married Phillipa (de) Roet. She was a lady-in-waiting to the queen and had close family connections to John of Gaunt. He had about three or four children.
The king’s esquire
Chaucer may have studied law in the Inner Temple. He joined the Royal Court and travelled a lot around Europe on business for the king. He became one of the king’s esquires. One of his first known poems was written in 1369. It was called The Book of The Duchess, and was written after the death of John of Gaunt’s wife, Blanche. In 1373, Chaucer travelled to Italy where he became acquainted with Italian medieval poetry. He learnt from the forms and compositions of these poems and would later incorporate some of these ideas into his own poetry.
In 1374, he became Comptroller (in charge of the money) of the Customs for the Port of London. He did this well paid job for 12 years and became quite wealthy.
When Richard II became king, Chaucer continued to working in Customs. He was also sent to Europe on several more diplomatic jobs for the king. Richard II was to be a good patron to Chaucer whilst the king lived.
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Country life
Chaucer moved to Kent in 1385 where he had a new position as Justice of the Peace. He was also elected as one of two knights of the shire to be a member of parliament. At the end of the year he lost his customs jobs. His wife, Phillipa, died in 1387. But on 12 July 1389, he was made the Clerk of the Kings Works looking after repairs to the royal palaces. He was given other small positions including looking after the river banks of the Thames, and as a deputy forester in the Royal Forest. Over the next few years Chaucer became poorer and often was given small payments and pensions from the king.
He died at St.Mary’s Chapel at Westminster on October 25, 1400. Chaucer is buried in Westminster Abbey, in what is now called the Poets’ Corner.
His writings
Chaucer did most of his writing between 1369 and 1393. He is famous for his collection of stories called the Canterbury Tales. Many of the characters featuring in the book were based on Chaucer’s own experiences of many different jobs. These gave Chaucer an insight into the manners and characteristics of a diverse range of people – and enabled him to satirise them in his book.
Chaucer helped to standardise modern English. He is considered the first great English writer. Though still the English of Chaucer has drifted, making it difficult for modern readers to understand the orginal.
Biography William Blake

William Blake (November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker.
William Blake was one of England’s greatest poets. He combined a lofty mysticism, imagination and vision with an uncompromising awareness of the harsh realities of life.
“Tyger, Tyger, burning brightIn the forests of the night,What immortal hand or eyeCould frame thy fearful symmetry?”
– William Blake – The Tyger (from Songs of Experience)
As a young boy, Blake recalls having a most revealing vision of seeing angels in the trees. These mystical visions returned throughout his life, leaving a profound mark on his poetry and outlook. William Blake was also particularly sensitive to cruelty. His heart wept at the site of man’s inhumanity to other men and children. In many ways he was also of radical temperament, rebelling against the prevailing orthodoxy of the day. His anger and frustration at the world can be seen in his collection of poems “Songs of Experience”
“How can the bird that is born for joySit in a cage and sing?How can a child, when fears annoy,But droop his tender wing,And forget his youthful spring!”
– William Blake: The Schoolboy
But as well as writing poetry that revealed and exposed the harsh realities of life, William Blake never lost touch with his heavenly visions. Like a true Seer he could see beyond the ordinary world and glimpsed the light of the beyond.
“To see a world in a grain of sandAnd heaven in a wild flowerHold infinity in the palm of your handAnd eternity in an hour.”
This poem from Auguries of Innocence is one of the most loved poems in the English language. Within four short lines he gives an impression of the infinite in the finite, and the eternal in the transient.
Short Bio of William Blake
William Blake was born in London, where he spent most of his life. His father was a successful London hosier and attracted by the Religious teachings of  Emmanuel Swedenborg. Blake was first educated at home, chiefly by his mother.  Blake remained very close to his mother and wrote a lot of poetry about her.  Poems such as Cradle Song illustrate Blake’s fond memories for his upbringing by his mother:
Sweet dreams, form a shadeO’er my lovely infant’s head;Sweet dreams of pleasant streamsBy happy, silent, moony beams.Sweet sleep, with soft downWeave thy brows an infant crown.Sweep sleep, Angel mild,Hover o’er my happy child.
– William Blake
His parents were broadly sympathetic with his artistic temperament and they encouraged him to collect Italian prints. He found work as an engraver, joining the trade at an early age. He found the early apprenticeship rather boring, but the skills he learnt proved useful throughout his artistic life.
During his lifetime Blake never made much money. It was only after his death that his genius was fully appreciated. His engravings and commissioned work drew enough money to survive, but at times he had to rely on the support of some of his close friends. Because of Blake’s temperaments he was not always suited to maintaining friendships. On one occasion he got into trouble with the authorities for forcing a soldier to leave his back garden. He faced the possibility of jail, but through being his own defence counsel, he was able to gain acquittal. Blake was very much a free spirit who readily spoke his mind, so much so that some acquaintances thought he was mad.
The esteemed poet, William Wordsworth, said on the death of Blake:
 “There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott.”
Blake died on August 12 1827, he was buried in an unmarked grave in a public cemetery and Bunhill Fields. After his death his influence steadily grew through the Pre-Raphaelites and later noted poets such as T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats.
William Wordsworth Biography

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was a major Romantic poet, based in the Lake District, England. His greatest work was “The Prelude” – dedicated to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The Prelude is a spiritual autobiography based on Wordsworth’s travels through Europe and his observations of life. His poetry also takes inspiration from the beauty of nature, especially his native Lake District.
Early life – William Wordsworth
Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in Cockermouth, in north-west England. His father, John Wordsworth, introduced the young William to the great poetry of Milton and Shakespeare, but he was frequently absent during William’s childhood. Instead, Wordsworth was brought up by his mother’s parents in Penrith, but this was not a happy period. He frequently felt in conflict with his relations and at times contemplated ending his life. However, as a child, he developed a great love of nature, spending many hours walking in the fells of the Lake District. He also became very close to his sister, Dorothy, who would later become a poet in her own right.
In 1778, William was sent to Hawkshead Grammar School in Lancashire; this separated him from his beloved sister for nearly nine years. In 1787, he entered St. John’s College, Cambridge. It was in this year that he had his first published work, a sonnet in the European Magazine. While still a student at Cambridge, in 1790, he travelled to revolutionary France. He was deeply impressed by the revolutionary spirit and the principles of liberty and egalite. He also fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon; together they had an illegitimate daughter, Anne Caroline.

After graduating from Cambridge, Wordsworth returned to France, where his daughter was born in 1792. However, despite expressing a desire to marry, Wordsworth left France alone, leaving his partner and daughter in France. At the time, there was growing political tension between France and Great Britain. Also, Wordsworth became increasingly estranged from the French Revolution; in the Reign of Terror, he saw the revolutionary principles betrayed. Wordsworth was unable to return to France until 1802 when the political situation improved. Wordsworth later sought to maintain his financial obligations to his daughter, but also kept his illegitimate daughter hidden from the public gaze.
Friendship with Samuel Taylor Coleridge
After graduating, Wordsworth was fortunate to receive a legacy of £900 from Raisley Calvert to pursue a career in literature. He was able to publish his first collection of poems, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. That year he was also to meet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Somerset. They became close friends and collaborated on poetic ideas. They later published a joint work – Lyrical Ballards (1798), and Wordsworth greatest work ‘The Prelude‘ was initially called by Wordsworth ‘To Coleridge‘
This period was important for Wordsworth and also the direction of English poetry. With Coleridge, Keats and Shelley, Wordsworth helped create a much more spontaneous and emotional poetry. It sought to depict the beauty of nature and the quintessential depth of human emotion. In the preface to Lyrical Ballards, Wordsworth writes of poetry:
“The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”
Lyrical Ballards includes some of his best-known poems, such as, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”, “A Slumber Did my Spirit Seal”.
A SLUMBER did my spirit seal;I had no human fears:She seemed a thing that could not feelThe touch of earthly years.No motion has she now, no force;She neither hears nor sees;Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course,With rocks, and stones, and trees.
– W. Wordsworth 1799.
In 1802, after returning from a brief visit to see his daughter, Wordsworth married a childhood friend, Mary Hutchinson. Dorothy continued to live with the couple, and she became close to Mary as well as her brother. William and Mary had five children, though three died early.

Lake District, North Windermere, near Grasmere
In 1807, he published another important volume of poetry “Poems, in Two Volumes“, this included famous poems such as; “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, “My Heart Leaps Up”, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.”
I wandered lonely as a cloudThat floats on high o’er vales and hills,When all at once I saw a crowd,A host, of golden daffodils;
– W. Wordsworth – I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
In 1813, he received an appointment as Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland; this annual income of £400 gave him greater financial security and enabled him to devote his spare time to poetry. In 1813, he family also moved into Rydal Mount, Grasmere; a picturesque location, which inspired his later poetry.
“My heart leaps up when I beholdA rainbow in the sky:So was it when my life began;So is it now I am a man;So be it when I shall grow old,Or let me die!”
Poet Laureate
By the 1820s, the critical acclaim for Wordsworth was growing, though ironically critics note that, from this period, his poetry began losing some of its vigour and emotional intensity. His poetry was perhaps a reflection of his own ideas. The 1790s had been a period of emotional turmoil and faith in the revolutionary ideal. Towards the end of his life, his disillusionment with the French Revolution had made him more conservative in outlook. In 1839 he received an honorary degree from Oxford University and received a civil pension of £300 a year from the government. In 1843, he was persuaded to become the nation’s Poet Laureate, despite saying he wouldn’t write any poetry as Poet Laureate. Wordsworth is the only Poet Laureate who never wrote poetry during his official time in the job.
Wordsworth died of pleurisy on 23 April 1850. He was buried in St Oswald’s church Grasmere. After his death, his widow Mary published his autobiographical ‘Poem to Coleridge’ under the title “The Prelude”.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Biography
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was influential in the founding and development of  English Romantic poetry. Despite suffering from mood swings and an opium addiction, Coleridge produced some memorable poetry, and was also a noted literary critic.
Short Bio S.T. Coleridge (1772-1834)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Ottery St. Mary, Devon in 1772. His father was a local vicar who was already 53 when Samuel was born; his father later died when Coleridge was just six years old. As a child, he was withdrawn, but loved reading. He later recounted how much he enjoyed reading books such as Robinson Crusoe, and Arabian Nights. After the death of his father, he went to Christ’s Hospital school in London, where he developed a love for the classic Greek poets and the two English immortals, Shakespeare and Milton. In 1791 he went to Jesus College, Cambridge University. Here his poetry was first recognised, winning the Browne Gold medal for an ode on the slave trade.
Half way through his degree, he quit college to join the Royal Dragoons, but this proved a failure; he couldn’t cope with military life, and with the aid of his brother was discharged on the grounds of insanity. He returned to Jesus College, though he never completed his degree.
It was in Cambridge that he met poet and radical Robert Southey ; the political opinions of Southey left an impression on Coleridge, who was interested in political thought throughout his life. Like many young students of his generation, he was initially inspired by ideals of French revolution, though he later became disenchanted. At one time, Coleridge and Southey planned to set up a utopian community in Bristol, but this plan never materialised. In 1795 he married Sara Fricker, but he never really loved her – marrying more out of social convention. After an unhappy marriage, they separated though they did have a daughter. After drifting away from his own wife, he later fell in love with Sara Hutchinson, the sister of Wordsworth’s future wife.
In the late 1790s, Coleridge developed a close and important friendship with William Wordsworth – a fellow romantic poet. This was not just a close friendship, but also an important literary collaboration. Together they published the influential volume of poetry – Lyrical Ballards (1798). This included classics by Wordsworth, such as ‘Tintern Abbey’ and Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. These poems were a key development in Romantic poetry; using everyday words to evoke poetic ideals such as the beauty of nature. Coleridge definitely had a significant influence on Wordsworth; Wordsworth’s great work ‘The Prelude‘ was originally entitled ‘Poem To Coleridge.’
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Some of the most memorable lines from ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ have slipped into everyday English use, for example, the metaphor of an “albatross around one’s neck’ and phrases such as ‘Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink’
The relative success of this publication, led Coleridge to receive an annual payment of £150 from the two Wedgewood brothers. This enabled him to devote more time to writing and poetry.
In 1798, with the Wordsworths, he visited Germany where he became interested in the work of philosopher Immanuel Kant. To Coleridge poetry and philosophy shared a common thread; in his Biographia Literaria (1817) Ch 1, he wrote:
“No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher.”
Coleridge wrote on a wide variety of subjects, which he recorded in his Notebooks – daily meditations on life. He also became known as an expert critic on Shakespeare. In particular, one lecture on Hamlet, helped to resurrect the critical acclaim of this play which had, at the time, fallen out of favour. Writing on Shakespeare, Coleridge wrote:
“Shakespeare, no mere child of nature; no automaton of genius; no passive vehicle of inspiration possessed by the spirit, not possessing it; first studied patiently, meditated deeply, understood minutely, till knowledge became habitual and intuitive, wedded itself to his habitual feelings, and at length gave birth to that stupendous power by which he stands alone, with no equal or second in his own class” – Biographia Literaria (1817)
Yet, though he could offer imaginative and ground-breaking writing, he was also increasingly hampered by his opium addiction. Suffering from neuralgic and rheumatic pains, he was prescribed copious amounts of opium as a pain reliever; this almost inevitably led to addiction and increased mental disturbance. Though some poems were said to have been imagined in an opium induced dream (like Kubla Khan) his opium consumption harmed his well being and seriously damaged his friendship with William Wordsworth. His Opium addiction also made him depressed; parts of Kubla Khan sound autobiographical.
“Alone, alone, all, all alone,Alone on a wide wide sea!And never a saint took pity onMy soul in agony.”
– Coleridge, Kubla Khan, Part IV, st. 3
In 1817, his addiction was domineering his life, so he sought the help of physician James Gillman. Gillman took Coleridge into his own household and for the remainder of his life, Coleridge live at his residence – 3 The Grove, Highgate, London. From this period, he rarely ventured out, and continued to write prose, such as his Biographia Literaria (1817), poetry and also more theological and politico-sociological works. He remained an icon of budding writers and poets, especially those interested in his brand of romantic poetry such as Thomas Carlyle and Lord Byron.
He died in Highgate, near London on July 25, 1834. An Epitaph he wrote for himself in 1833:
“Beneath this sodA poet lies, or that which once seemed he —Oh, lift a thought in prayer for S.T.C!That he, who many a year, with toil of breath,Found death in life, may here find life in death.”
– Coleridge.
Percy Bysshe Shelley Biography
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) – English Romantic poet
Shelley was an influential English romantic poet, famous for his lyrical poetry and idealistic radical political thought. He was also generous in his support and encouragement of fellow poets, and was a key figure in the development of English romantic poetry.
“Till the Future daresForget the Past, his fate and fame shall beAn echo and a light unto eternity!”
Percy Bysshe Shelley – Adonais (1821)
Short Bio of Shelley
Shelley was born into a minor aristocratic family. His father, Sir Timothy Shelley,
a Whig Member of Parliament. For schooling, Shelley was sent to Syon House and later Eton College. At an early age, Shelley developed unorthodox views and attitudes, which often caused him to be bullied by classmates. His unhappy life in school institutions caused him to withdraw into reading and made him even more independently minded.
Shelley at Oxford and Views on Religion
In 1810, Shelley went to University College, Oxford. It was widely held that he rarely attended formal lectures; instead preferring to read his own selection of books. It was at Oxford that he published his first poetry and novel Zastrozzi (1810). In the following year he wrote another novel and a pamphlet ‘The Necessity of Atheism‘. In this pamphlet Shelley questioned the existence of God, and the role of Christianity.
“If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him?”
“If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future?”
Percy Bysshe Shelley – The Necessity of Atheism (1811)
Shelley also questioned the supremacy of the Church of England as the religion of the UK. At the time, this criticism of Church and God was considered unacceptable.
After refusing to repudiate the pamphlet Shelly was expelled from Oxford in March 2011.
“Here I swear, and as I break my oath may Infinity Eternity blast me, here I swear that never will I forgive Christianity!”
Letter to Thomas Jefferson Hogg (1811-01-03)
Yet, like William Blake, Shelley held the inspiration of Christianity, Jesus Christ, in great veneration. He contended that the teachings and life of Jesus had been misrepresented by the Christian Church.
“Jesus Christ represented God as the principle of all good, the source of all happiness, the wise and benevolent Creator and Preserver of all living things. But the interpreters of his doctrines have confounded the good and the evil principle.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley – Essay on Christianity (1859) (note published after his death)
First Marriage
Four months later, Shelley eloped to Scotland with a 16 year old schoolgirl – Harriet Westbrook, where they got married. Combined with his expulsion from Oxford, this led to a deep estrangement from his father and family. However, the youthful marriage was not successful and despite having a child (Lanthe Shelley) they later separated.
During this time, Shelley often visited Ireland where he become noted as a radical and supporter of Irish nationalism; this brought him to the attention of the British authorities.
Marriage to Mary Godwin
In 1814, he travelled to London, where he became acquainted with utilitarian philosopher William Godwin. Here he met Mary Godwin (daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft). Shelley fell in love and left his wife to take Mary on a tour of Europe. After several months, they had to return to England after running low on funds.
Shelley was strongly influenced by the poetry of William Wordsworth, who was one of first Romantic poets to gain national recognition. He also became close to the two great romantic poets – John Keats and Lord Byron. Shelley was a great supporter of Keats, even when his Endymion had been heavily criticised by the press. After the death of Keats, Shelley wrote the elegy Adonais, one of his greatest works.
“The One remains, the many change and pass;Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,Stains the white radiance of Eternity,Until Death tramples it to fragments.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley – Adonais (1821)
Shelley also spent much time with Lord Byron in both Switzerland and later Italy. From this literary friendship, Shelley gained more inspiration for his poetry.
In 1818, Shelley was in Rome, when wrote his classic Prometheus Unbound – a reworking of a Greek classic. However, on a personal level, he suffered many tragic events. His first wife committed suicide in 1816, and in 1818 and 1819, his young son and daughter both died in infancy.
As well as beautiful lyrical poetry, Shelley also increasingly ventured into political criticism. Shelley was highly critical of the perceived cruelty and injustice of the British establishment, highlighted in incidents such as the Peterloo massacre. His essays such as, Philosophical View of Reform; and poems such as, Queen Mab, and the Men of England, inspired later radicals and socialists, from Karl Marx to George Bernard Shaw.
Shelley’s espousal of non-violent resistance to injustice also inspired later activists such as Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi. Shelley was a principled supporter of rights for all in society, and not just the few.
“GOVERNMENT has no rights; it is a delegation from several individuals for the purpose of securing their own. It is therefore just, only so far as it exists by their consent, useful only so far as it operates to their well-being.”
“Declaration of Rights” (1812), article 1
Shelly was also an early advocate of vegetarianism as a way to extend sympathy to all life forms.
In 1822, with Byron and Leigh Hunt, Shelly started a left wing journal called The Liberal. However, shortly after setting up the journal, Shelley’s life was tragically cut short, when he was caught up in a sudden storm on the Italian coast.
His body was later washed up on shore near Viareggio. A statue of Shelley’s washed up body was commissioned by his daughter in law and the statue by Edward Onslow Ford stands as a memorial to Shelley at University College, Oxford University.
Shelley Statue – University College, Oxford
In 1820, Shelley wrote a poem on the concept of his own cenotaph
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,And out of the caverns of rain,Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,I arise and unbuild it again.
The Cloud (1820)
Alfred Lord Tennyson Biography
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 – 1892)

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Alfred Tennyson became the most popular poet of the Victorian age. With royal patronage, his poetry helped define an era. In the Twentieth Century his influence waned. However, he ranked second in the list of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare.
He was born August 6th, 1809, at Somersby, Lincolnshire; he was the fourth of twelve children. Despite having wealthy relatives, the Tennyson’s lived in relative poverty.
His family had a long history of minor mental illnesses. Several brothers had epilepsy, which in Victorian times was feared because it was difficult to treat. Also his father, under the influence of heavy drinking, grew increasingly mentally unstable and physically weak.
In 1827, he followed two elder brothers to Trinity College, Cambridge. This offered him an opportunity to explore his intellectual and poetic pursuits. In 1828, he won the Chancellor’s Gold Medal for his poem Timbuctoo. This helped raise his profile and reputation as a poet.
He became close friends with Arthur Hallam, Hallam was an important influence on Tennyson, encouraging him in his literary endeavours. His early death in 1833, when Tennyson was just 22, was quite a shock. But, it led to some of Tennyson’s most thoughtful and memorable poetry – such as: In Memoriam, Ulysses and Tithonus. After the death of Prince Albert, In Memoriam was a favourite of Queen Victoria, who requested an interview with Tennyson because she was so impressed with the poem.
I hold it true, whate’er befall;I feel it when I sorrow most;‘Tis better to have loved and lostThan never to have loved at all.
– Tennyson In Memoriam
And this gray spirit yearning in desireTo follow knowledge like a sinking star,Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
– Ulysses 30-32
In 1832, he published a series of Poems. However, Tennyson was very sensitive to the mixed reviews. Criticism dissuaded him from publishing for another nine years.
However, another volume of poems in 1842 were more successful both commercially and financially. Tennyson was becoming well known as a poet. He received a civil list pension and his reputation continued to grow.
Tennyson’s poem Charge of the Light Brigade, epitomised many aspects of Victorian society and the patriotism of the day. It holds up the ideal of courage and patriotism in the face of overwhelming danger and the horrors of war. It is a celebration of heroic failure:
Cannon to the right of them,Cannon to the left of them,Cannon in front of themVolley’d and thunder’d;Storm’d at with shot and shell,Boldly they rode and well,Into the jaws of Death,Into the mouth of HellRode the six hundred.
– Lord Tennyson, verse 3.
Whilst writing poetry on the Isle of Wight, Prince Albert visited him offering his admiration for his poetry. The royal approval of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were instrumental in cementing his reputation as the best known poet of Victorian Britain. In 1850, he was appointed as Poet Laureate, succeeding William Wordsworth.
He died on October 6, 1892 aged 83.
Walt Whitman Biography
(1819 – 1892) American poet who bridged the Transcendentalist poets with the more realistic style of the Twentieth Century. Whitman magnus opus was Leaves of Grass, a ground breaking new style of poetry.
Short bio Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819. He was the second child in a family of 11. His parents were Walter Whitman, a housebuilder, and Louisa Van Velsor. Whitman grew up in the Brooklyn district of New York and Long Island. At the age of twelve Whitman, began learning to work as a printer. It was around this time that he discovered a great passion for literature. Largely self-taught he read voraciously, including works by the great classic writers – Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and the Bible. After a devastating fire in the printing district of New York, Whitman was left without a job, But, in 1836, at the age of 17, he began his career as teacher in the one-room school houses of Long Island. He continued to teach until 1841, when he turned to journalism as a full-time career. He founded a weekly newspaper, Long-Islander, and later edited a number of Brooklyn and New York papers. In 1848, Whitman left the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to become editor of the New Orleans Crescent. In New Orleans he became witness to the practise of slavery in the city, and was repulsed by what he saw. Whitman opposed the extension of slavery, though did not always support the abolitionists, over concerns about their commitment to democracy. He closely followed politics throughout his life.
He returned to Brooklyn in the fall of 1848, where he founded a “free soil” newspaper, the Brooklyn Freeman. As well as journalism, Whitman became absorbed in poetry, writing a unique and distinctive style. In 1855, he finished his seminal work ‘Leaves of Grass, which consisted of twelve sections.
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,And what I assume you shall assume,For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
– Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
He published the volume himself, and sent a copy to Ralph Waldo Emerson in July of 1855. Emerson was one of America’s leading writers and free thinkers. He was astonished by the unique style of Whitman.
“I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of “Leaves of Grass.” I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I am very happy in reading it, as great power makes us happy.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman 1855.
He praised the volume extensively, and this helped Whitman gain greater recognition. In 1856, he released a second edition, containing thirty-three poems, a letter from Emerson praising the first edition, and a long open letter by Whitman in response. During his subsequent career, Whitman continued to refine the volume, publishing several more editions of the book.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Whitman wrote “Beat! Beat! Drums!” a patriotic poem and rally call for the North. During the war, he wrote freelance journalism and visited the wounded at New York-area hospitals. In 1862, he traveled to Washington, D.C. to care for his brother who had been wounded in the war. Overcome by the suffering of the many wounded in Washington, Whitman decided to stay and work in the hospitals. His war time experiences left a profound mark on Whitman. He wrote
…I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound, Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive, While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail…
– Walt Whitman, The Wound Dresser
However, despite his first hand witness of human suffering, Whitman’s poetry always contained all range of human emotions. He wrote also of joy and the unending capacity of the human spirit.
O the joy of that vast elemental sympathy which only the human soul is capable of generating and emitting in steady and limitless floods.
– Walt Whitman, A Song of Joys
Whitman stayed in the city for eleven years. He took a job as a clerk for the Department of the Interior, which ended when the Secretary of the Interior, James Harlan, discovered that Whitman was the author of Leaves of Grass, which Harlan found offensive. Harlan fired the poet.
Whitman struggled to support himself through most of his life. In Washington he lived on a clerk’s salary and modest royalties, and spent any excess money, including gifts from friends, to buy supplies for the patients he nursed. He had also been sending money to his widowed mother and an invalid brother. From time to time writers both in the states and in England sent him “purses” of money so that he could get by.
Walt Whitman was heavily influenced by Deism – a belief in God without needing an organised religion. In his writings he suggested that all religions were valid, but he himself did not adhere to one particular creed. This underlying oneness of the Universe is a recurrent theme of Whitman’s poetry.
Come said the Muse,Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted,Sing me the universal.In this broad earth of ours,Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,Enclosed and safe within its central heart,Nestles the seed perfection.
– Song of the Universal, Walt Whitman
In the early 1870s, Whitman settled in Camden, where he had come to visit his dying mother at his brother’s house. However, after suffering a stroke, Whitman found it impossible to return to Washington. He stayed with his brother until the 1882 publication of Leaves of Grass gave Whitman enough money to buy a home in Camden. In the simple two-story clapboard house, Whitman spent his declining years working on additions and revisions to a new edition of the book and preparing his final volume of poems and prose, Good-Bye, My Fancy (1891). After his death on March 26, 1892, Whitman was buried in a tomb he designed and had built on a lot in Harleigh Cemetery.
Biography Emily Dickinson
General Summary
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Emily Dickinson, regarded as one of America’s greatest poets, is also well known for her unusual life of self imposed social seclusion. Living a life of simplicity and seclusion, she yet wrote poetry of great power; questioning the nature of immortality and death, with at times an almost mantric quality. Her different lifestyle created an aura; often romanticised, and frequently a source of interest and speculation. But ultimately Emily Dickinson is remembered for her unique poetry. Within short, compact phrases she expressed far-reaching ideas; amidst paradox and uncertainty her poetry has an undeniable capacity to move and provoke.
Early Life Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson was born on 10th December, 1830, in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Amherst, 50 miles from Boston, had become well known as a centre for Education, based around Amherst College. Her family were pillars of the local community; their house known as “The Homestead” or “Mansion” was often used as a meeting place for distinguished visitors including, Ralph Waldo Emerson. (although it unlikely he met with Emily Dickinson)
As a young child, Emily proved to be a bright and conscientious student. She showed a sharp intelligence, and was able to create many original writings of rhyming stories, delighting her fellow classmates. Emily’s father was strict and keen to bring up his children in the proper way. Emily said of her father. “his heart was pure and terrible”.  His strictness can be shown through his censorship of reading materials; Walt Whitman for example was considered “too inappropriate” and novels had to be smuggled into the house. In response, Emily was highly deferential to her father and other male figures of authority. But in her own way she loved and respected her father, even if at times, he appeared to be aloof. At a young age, she said she wished to be the “best little girl”. However despite her attempts to please and be well thought of, she was also at the same time independently minded, and quite willing to refuse the prevailing orthodoxy’s on certain issues.
Religious Influence on the Poetry of Emily Dickinson
A crucial issue at the time was the issue of religion, which to Emily was the “all important question” The antecedents of the Dickinson’s can be traced back to the early Puritan settlers, who left Lincolnshire in the late 17th Century. Her antecedents had left England, so they could practise religious freedom in America. In the nineteenth- century, religion was still the dominant issue of the day. The East coast, in particular, saw a revival of strict Calvinism; developing partly in response to the more inclusive Unitarianism. Amherst College itself was founded with the intention of training ministers to spread the Christian word. Calvinism. By incrimination, Emily Dickinson would probably have been more at ease with the looser and more inclusive ideology of Unitarianism. However, the “Great Revival” as it was known, pushed the Calvinist view to greatest prominence.
Religious Belief – Emily Dickinson
The Calvinist approach to religion believed that men were inherently sinful and most humans were doomed to hell. There was only a small number who would be saved, and this could only be achieved by the adherent proclaiming his faith in Jesus Christ, as the true Saviour. There was subtle, but concerted effort, to encourage people to declare themselves saved. Both, at school and at college, there would have been much of this subtle pressure put on Emily to join the “saved”; but this she never did. She always retained an independent view towards the matter of religion.
“Faith” is a fine inventionFor gentlemen who see,But Microscopes are prudentIn an emergency!
– Emily Dickinson
Her father was not too concerned with the religious views of his children even though, later in his life, he also accepted this belief. Thus, on the crucial issue of the day Emily was relatively isolated. Amongst other reasons, Emily could never accept the doctrine of “original sin”. Despite remaining true to her own convictions, Emily was left with a sense of exclusion from the established religion, and these sentiments inform much of her poetry. There is frequent reference to “being shut out of heaven”. Yet despite this rejection of the orthodox religion, there is much in her poetry which reveals a profoundly religious temperament. For Emily religious experience was not a simple intellectual statement of belief; it could be more accurately reflected in the beauty of nature, and the experiences of ecstatic joy. Yet, although her poetry expressed intense inner experiences, this separation from established religion is a factor in her uncertainties and fluctuations in sentiment, evident in many poems.
It is a matter of speculation to what extent her poems could be considered autobiographical, but this poem gives an indication of the fleeting joy of spiritual experience, and also the more painful reality of life.
For each ecstatic instantWe must an anguish payIn keen and quivering rationTo the ecstasy.
For each beloved hourSharp pittances of years –Bitter contested farthings –And Coffers heaped with Tears!
– Emily Dickinson
Emily was a bright conscientious student. At Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, she was able to study a range of subjects from Latin to English Literature. However, her studies were often interrupted by ill health. After a persistent cough developed, her father decided to remove her from college and bring her back home. Thus she left without any formal qualifications, but she had at least been able to broaden her education and vocabulary.
Emily Dickinson’s later seclusion from society gives an impression of a life of austerity and simplicity. This has been romanticised, with the frequently cited
preference for her wearing all white dresses. However, Emily was both a keen artist and accomplished musician. In her college years she enjoyed singing; making reference to the similarities between poetry and singing. She also had a sharp eye for beautiful art; this visual sense and her appreciation of bright colours being evident in many of her poems. Emily was also well read, choosing writers such as; Emerson, Thoreau, Dickens, John Ruskin, and nineteenth- century poets like the Browning’s and the Bronte sisters.
The poetry of Emerson was introduced to Emily by one of her brother’s friends, Benjamin Newton. Newton was a young law student, who was well versed in contemporary literature. He was one of the first people to recognise the poetic capacities of Emily, and encouraged her to write poetry. The works of other poets, in particular Emerson, were important for Emily Dickinson in opening up spiritual ideas beyond the strict Calvinism. Emily had innovative views and unorthodox beliefs, but she often doubted her own convictions; thus influences of Emerson and other poets were of great importance.
On returning home from college, Emily Dickinson learnt much of the domestic chores, helping her mother with cleaning, sewing and entertaining. She sought as much as possible to maintain the ideals of the early American travelers following principles of honesty, simplicity and high minded morals. Emily was said to be beautiful, with a soft voice and dark eyes. She dressed in a relatively simple way and surviving photos show she kept her hair in a simple straightened style (somewhat like the Puritan style).
Emily was quick witted and intelligent; she had a good sense of humour, but was often ill at ease in other people’s company. She gave the impression of being somewhat agitated and intense. Her friend and literary critic, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, would later say how tense the meeting with her was.
“I was never with anyone who drained my nerve power so much.” However, he did comment that this “little plain woman” was also ingenious, childlike and seemed very thoughtful of others.” Also, although she did feel awkward in some social situations, with her close friends and sisters she could easily indulge in innocent childlike humour.
Emily herself often thought of herself like a child; even tomboy and she referred to this in many of her poems. In this frame of mind, she portrayed a degree of vulnerability looking to others for protection. This was particularly marked in her relationship with her authoritarian father, whom she was eager to defer to.
For a time, her father served in the House of Representatives, and on occasion Emily visited Washington. It was here that she was able to come into contact with the charismatic preacher, the Reverend Charles Wadsworth. From her letters, it is clear she held him in high esteem, despite their apparent differences in theological beliefs.  The 2 exchanged letters for many years, including responses to Emily’s request for spiritual guidance.
Emily Dickinson’s Seclusion
Because of her discomfort and shyness in social situations, Emily gradually reduced her social contacts, going out less and less into society. By her late twenties, this has led to an almost complete seclusion; spending most of her time in the family house, rarely meeting others from outside a close family circle. Her sister explains this wasn’t a sudden decision, but a gradual process that happened over a period of time. However, despite the physical seclusion, Emily still maintained written contact with a variety of thought provoking people. It is also clear from her poetry that her decision to live life as a recluse did not close her mind, but in many ways allowed the flow of new avenues of thought and inner experiences.
Despite her family’s strong political tradition, Emily appeared unconcerned with politics. At the start of the American civil war she commented little on the event, and choose not to help the war effort, through making bandages. To be fair, this attitude of distancing from the war was quite common in the north. For example, her brother Austin choose to pay $500 to avoid military service; however as the war years advanced and Amherst experienced its first casualties of war, inevitably its citizens were drawn further into the conflict. Emily and her family, were particularly affected when friends of the family were killed in battle. Death of close friends was a significant feature of Emily’s life; many close to her were taken away. This inevitably heightened her interest, fascination and perhaps fear of death, which informed so much of her poetry. The Civil War years were also the most productive for Emily; in terms of quantity of poems, it appears Emily Dickinson was influenced imperceptibly by the atmosphere of War, even if it appeared somewhat distant to her.
As well as writing over 1,700 poems, Emily was a prolific letter writer; these letters giving her the opportunity for contact with others, that in other respects she denied herself. Her letters show her love of language and are often not too dissimilar to her style of poetry. She went to great length to express her personal sentiments of gratitude and love to others, though it should be remembered this emotional style of writing and communicating was fairly common for the time. They should also be seen in regard to Emily’s other letters, which freely express intense emotional sentiments.
Many of her poems refer to an invisible lover, – an object of devotion. Biographers have inevitably speculated about who this is. There is strong evidence that towards the end of her life she had some kind of emotional relationship with Judge Otis Lord (many years her senior and highly respected within the community). However, the poetry of Emily Dickinson was often deliberately vague. The object of her devotion may have been no person in particular, but some unknown aspect of the divine.
Emily Dickinson died at the age of 55 from Bright’s disease, which is caused by kidney degeneration. Her doctor suggested that the accumulation of stress throughout her life contributed to her premature death.
Despite Emily’s seclusion and frail health, her poetry reveals that she did experience moments of great joy. Through nature and life she was able to glimpse into a mystic dimension beyond worldly distractions; although it is also clear this did not become a permanent feeling. For every ecstatic joy there seems to be a contrasting doubt and uncertainty. But she was able to offer a concise and direct revelation of thought provoking ideas through a powerful command of language. Even critics of her poetry, who point to inconsistencies in style and form, cannot deny the inherent power of her poetry and this explains the enduring popularity and success of her poetry.
My life closed twice before its close.It yet remains to seeIf immortality unveilA third event to me,So huge, so hopeless to conceiveAs these that twice befell,Parting is all we know of heaven,And all we need of hell.
After her death, her close sister Vinnie, had been instructed to burn her letters. In doing so she came across a box of 1,700 of Emily’s poems. Thankfully Vinnie ignored any request to burn old manuscripts. After a couple of years, Vinnie handed them to a family friend, Mabel Todd. Although Mabel had never met Emily, she had often been to Evergreens, the Dickinson family home. She typed up 200 letters becoming increasingly enthusiastic about the beauty and power of the poems. With the help and encouragement of Terrence Higginson, Emily’s long standing friend, the first edition of poems was published in 1893. Her poems soon received extraordinary praise from leading magazines and newspapers. The New York Times claimed Emily Dickinson would soon be known amongst the immortals of English speaking poets.
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift

Portrait by Charles Jervas
(1667-11-30)30 November 1667Dublin, Kingdom of Ireland
19 October 1745(1745-10-19) (aged 77)Dublin, Kingdom of Ireland
Resting place
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin
Pen name
Isaac Bickerstaff, M. B. Drapier, Lemuel Gulliver, Simon Wagstaff, Esq.
Satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet, priest
Alma mater
Trinity College, Dublin
Notable works
A Tale of a TubDrapier’s LettersGulliver’s TravelsA Modest Proposal

(1667 – 1745) Anglo-Irish writer born in Dublin. Swift was a prominent satirist, essayist and author. Notable works include Gulliver’s Travels (1726), A Modest Proposal and A Tale of a Tub.
Charlotte Bronte (1816 – 1855) English novelist and poet, from Haworth. Her best known novel is ‘Jane Eyre’ (1847).
George Eliot
George Eliot

Aged 30 by the Swiss artist Alexandre Louis François d’Albert Durade (1804–86)
Mary Anne Evans(1819-11-22)22 November 1819Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England
22 December 1880(1880-12-22) (aged 61)Chelsea, Middlesex, England
Resting place
Highgate Cemetery (East), Highgate, London
Pen name
George Eliot
Notable works
The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), Daniel Deronda (1876)
John Cross (1880; her death)
George Henry Lewes (1854–78) (his death)
Robert Evans and Christiana Pearson (parents); Christiana, Isaac, Robert, and Fanny (siblings)

(1819 – 1880) Pen name of Mary Ann Evans. Wrote novels, The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), and Daniel Deronda (1876)
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) Russian novelist, journalist and philosopher. Notable works include Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment and The Idiot

Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy

Hardy between about 1910 and 1915
(1840-06-02)2 June 1840Stinsford, Dorset, England
11 January 1928(1928-01-11) (aged 87)Dorchester, Dorset, England
Resting place
• Stinsford parish church (heart)
• Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey (ashes)
Novelist, poet, and short story writer
Alma mater
King’s College London
Literary movement
Naturalism, Victorian literature
Notable works
Tess of the d’Urbervilles,Far from the Madding Crowd,The Mayor of Casterbridge,Collected PoemsJude the Obscure
• Emma Gifford(1874–1912)
• Florence Dugdale(1914–1928)

(1840-1928) English novelist and poet. Hardy was a Victorian realist who was influenced by Romanticism. He wrote about problems of Victorian society – in particular, declining rural life. Notable works include: Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895).

James Joyce
(1882 – 1941) Irish writer from Dublin. Joyce was one of most influential modernist avant-garde writers of the Twentieth Century. His novel Ulysses (1922), was ground-breaking for its stream of consciousness style. Other works include Dubliners (1914) and Finnegans Wake (1939).

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940) American author. Iconic writer of the ‘jazz age’. Notable works include The Great Gatsby (1925), and Tender Is the Night (1934) – cautionary tales about the ‘Jazz decade’ and the American Dream based on pleasure and materialism

Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett

Beckett in 1977
Samuel Barclay Beckett(1906-04-13)13 April 1906Foxrock, Dublin, Ireland
22 December 1989(1989-12-22) (aged 83)Paris, France
Pen name
Andrew Belis[1]
Novelist, playwright, poet, theatre director, essayist
Alma mater
Trinity College Dublin
Drama, fiction, poetry, screenplays, personal correspondence[2]
Literary movement
Theatre of the Absurd
Notable works
Murphy (1938)Molloy (1951)Malone Dies (1951)The Unnamable (1953)Waiting for Godot (1953)Watt (1953)Endgame (1957)Krapp’s Last Tape (1958)How It Is (1961)
Notable awards
Nobel Prize in Literature1969Croix de Guerre1945
Years active

(1906-1989) Irish avant garde, modernist writer. Beckett wrote minimalist and thought provoking plays, such as ‘Waiting for Godot’ (1953) and ‘Endgame‘ (1957). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969.

Salman Rushdie (1947 – ) Anglo-Indian author. His works combine elements of magic realism, satire and historical fiction – often based on Indian sub-continent. Notable works include Midnight’s Children (1981), Shame (1983) and Satanic Verses (1988).

Homer (c. 8th Century B.C. ) Considered the greatest of the ancient Greek poets. Homer was the author of the two epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey.


Depiction of Virgil
Publius Vergilius MaroOctober 15, 70 BCNear Mantua, Cisalpine Gaul, Roman Republic
September 21, 19 BC (age 50)Brundisium, Italy, Roman Empire
Epic poetry, didactic poetry, pastoral poetry
Literary movement
Augustan poetry

(70 BC – 19 BC) Roman poet. Wrote three epics Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the Aeneid.

John Milton
John Milton

Portrait of Milton
(1608-12-09)9 December 1608Bread Street, Cheapside, London, England
8 November 1674(1674-11-08) (aged 65)Bunhill, London, England
Resting place
St Giles-without-Cripplegate
Poet, prose polemicist, civil servant
English, Latin, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Aramaic, Syriac
Alma mater
Christ’s College, Cambridge

(1608 – 1674) English poet. Best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667), written in blank verse – telling the Biblical story of man’s fall. Also wrote Areopagitica (1644) in defence of free speech.

Robert Frost (1874 – 1963) – Influential American poet, one of most highly regarded of the Twentieth Century. Most famous work ‘The Road Not Taken’ (1916)

Benjamin “Ben” Jonson
Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson (c. 1617), by Abraham Blyenberch; oil on canvas painting at the National Portrait Gallery, London
c. 11 June 1572Westminster, London, England
6 August 1637 (aged 65)London,[1] England
Playwright, poet, and actor

(c. 11 June 1572 – 6 August 1637) was an English playwright, poet, actor, and literary critic of the 17th century, whose artistry exerted a lasting impact upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours. He is best known for the satirical plays Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone, or The Fox (c. 1606), The Alchemist (1610) and Bartholomew Fair (1614) and for his lyric poetry; he is generally regarded as the second most important English playwright during the reign of James I after William Shakespeare.[2]
Jonson was a classically educated, well-read and cultured man of the English Renaissance with an appetite for controversy (personal and political, artistic and intellectual) whose cultural influence was of unparalleled breadth upon the playwrights and the poets of the Jacobean era (1603–1625) and of the Caroline era (1625–1642).[3][4]
Jonson’s works
• A Tale of a Tub, comedy (c. 1596 revised performed 1633; printed 1640)
• The Isle of Dogs, comedy (1597, with Thomas Nashe; lost)
• The Case is Altered, comedy (c. 1597–98; printed 1609), with Henry Porter and Anthony Munday
• Every Man in His Humour, comedy (performed 1598; printed 1601)
• Every Man out of His Humour, comedy ( performed 1599; printed 1600)
• Cynthia’s Revels (performed 1600; printed 1601)
• The Poetaster, comedy (performed 1601; printed 1602)
• Sejanus His Fall, tragedy (performed 1603; printed 1605)
• Eastward Ho, comedy (performed and printed 1605), a collaboration with John Marston and George Chapman
• Volpone, comedy (c. 1605–06; printed 1607)
• Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, comedy (performed 1609; printed 1616)
• The Alchemist, comedy (performed 1610; printed 1612)
• Catiline His Conspiracy, tragedy (performed and printed 1611)
• Bartholomew Fair, comedy (performed 31 October 1614; printed 1631)
• The Devil is an Ass, comedy (performed 1616; printed 1631)
• The Staple of News, comedy (performed Feb. 1626; printed 1631)
• The New Inn, or The Light Heart, comedy (licensed 19 January 1629; printed 1631)
• The Magnetic Lady, or Humors Reconciled, comedy (licensed 12 October 1632; printed 1641)
• The Sad Shepherd, pastoral (c. 1637, printed 1641), unfinished
• Mortimer His Fall, history (printed 1641), a fragment
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope (c. 1727), an English poet best known for his Essay on Criticism, The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad
(1688-05-21)21 May 1688London, England
30 May 1744(1744-05-30) (aged 56)Twickenham, Middlesex, Great Britain

(21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) was an 18th-century English poet. He is best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer, and he is also famous for his use of the heroic couplet. He is the second-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations after Shakespeare

Major works
• 1709: Pastorals
• 1711: An Essay on Criticism[28]
• 1712: Messiah
• 1712: The Rape of the Lock (enlarged in 1714)[28]
• 1713: Windsor Forest[7][28]
• 1715: The Temple of Fame: A Vision[29]
• 1715–1720: Translation of the Iliad[28]
• 1717: Eloisa to Abelard[28]
• 1717: Three Hours After Marriage, with others
• 1717: Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady[28]
• 1723–1725: The Works of Shakespear, in Six Volumes
• 1725–1726: Translation of the Odyssey[28]
• 1727: Peri Bathous, Or the Art of Sinking in Poetry
• 1728: The Dunciad[28]
• 1733–1734: Essay on Man[28]

•   Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

An anonymous portrait in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, believed to show Christopher Marlowe.
baptised 26 February 1564Canterbury, Kent, England
30 May 1593 (aged 29)Deptford, Kent, England
Playwright, poet
Early Modern English
Alma mater
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Literary movement
English Renaissance theatre
Notable works
Hero and Leander, Edward the Second, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, Dido, Queen of Carthage

•   ,[1] also known as Kit Marlowe (baptised 26 February 1564 – 30 May 1593), was an English playwright, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day.[2] He greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe's mysterious early death. Marlowe's plays are known for the use of blank verse and their overreaching protagonists.
•   A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May 1593. No reason was given for it, though it was thought to be connected to allegations of blasphemy—a manuscript believed to have been written by Marlowe was said to contain "vile heretical conceipts". On 20 May, he was brought to the court to attend upon the Privy Council for questioning. There is no record of their having met that day, however, and he was commanded to attend upon them each day thereafter until "licensed to the contrary". Ten days later, he was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer. Whether the stabbing was connected to his arrest has never been resolved

The dates of composition are approximate.
• Dido, Queen of Carthage (c. 1586) (possibly co-written with Thomas Nashe)
• Tamburlaine the Great, part 1 (c. 1587), part 2 (c. 1587–1588)
• The Jew of Malta (c. 1589)
• The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (c. 1589, or, c. 1593)
• Edward II (c. 1592)
• The Massacre at Paris (c. 1593)
The play Lust’s Dominion was attributed to Marlowe upon its initial publication in 1657, though scholars and critics have almost unanimously rejected the attribution.
• Translation of Book One of Lucan’s Pharsalia (date unknown)
• Translation of Ovid’s Amores (c. 1580s?)
• “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” (pre-1593)
• Hero and Leander (c. 1593, unfinished; completed by George Chapman, 1598)
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