Essayists Of Victorian Age

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This is a list of essayists—people notable for their essay-writing.

Note: Birthplaces (as listed) do not always indicate nationality.

A[edit]

  • Augurio Abeto, (1900–1977, Philippines)
  • André Aciman, (born 1951, Egypt)
  • Joseph Addison (1672–1719, England)
  • Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969, Germany)
  • José de Alencar, (1829–1877, Brazil)
  • Kingsley Amis (1922–1995, United Kingdom)
  • Martin Amis (born 1949, United Kingdom)
  • Oswald de Andrade, (1890–1954, Brazil)
  • Jacob M. Appel (born 1973, United States)
  • Helena Araújo Ortiz (1934–2015, Colombia)
  • Matthew Arnold (1822–1888, United Kingdom)
  • Anastasia Ashman (born 1964, United States)
  • Margaret Atwood (born 1939, Canada)
  • Isaac Asimov (1920–1992, Russia)
  • W. H. Auden (1907–1973, United Kingdom)
  • Joxe Azurmendi (born 1941, Spain)

B[edit]

  • Rambriksh Benipuri (1902–1968, India)
  • Francis Bacon (1561–1626, England)
  • Walter Bagehot (1826–1877, England)
  • James Baldwin (1924–1987, United States)
  • Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743–1825, England)
  • John Perry Barlow (1947–2018, United States)
  • Julian Barnes (born 1946, United Kingdom)
  • Jacques Barzun (1907–2012, France)
  • Enis Batur (born 1952, Turkey)
  • Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867, France)
  • Hilaire Belloc (1870–1953, United Kingdom)
  • Walter Benjamin (1892–1940, Germany)
  • Wendell Berry (born 1934, United States)
  • Jens Bjørneboe (1920-1976, Norway)
  • Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986, Argentina)
  • Alain de Botton (born 1969, Switzerland)
  • Giannina Braschi (born 1953, Puerto Rico)
  • William Brandon (1914–2002, United States)
  • Alfred Brendel (born 1931, Czech Republic)
  • Christopher Buckley (born 1952, United States)
  • Anthony Burgess (1917–1993, United Kingdom)
  • Richard de Bury (1287–1345, England)

C-D[edit]

  • Erskine Caldwell (1903– 2007, United States)
  • Italo Calvino (1923–1985, Italy)
  • Albert Camus (1913–1960, Algeria)
  • Rafael Cansinos Assens (1882–1964, Spain)
  • John Carey (born 1934, United Kingdom)
  • Simon Carmiggelt (1913–1987, Netherlands)
  • Otto Maria Carpeaux (1900–1978, Austria)
  • Kelly Cherry (born 1940, United States)
  • G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936, United Kingdom)
  • Noam Chomsky (1928, United States)
  • Winston Churchill (1874–1965, Great Britain)
  • J. M. Coetzee (born 1940, South Africa)
  • William Cobbett (1763–1835, Great Britain)
  • Charles Caleb Colton (1780–1832, Great Britain)
  • Cyril Connolly (1903–1974, United Kingdom)
  • Abraham Cowley (1618–1667, Great Britain)
  • Emil Cioran (1911–1995, Romania)
  • A. J. Cronin (1896–1981, Scotland)
  • Orson Scott Card (born 1951, United States)
  • Richard Dawkins (born 1941, United Kingdom)
  • Mike Daisey (born 1976, United States)
  • Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple) (born 1949, United Kingdom)
  • Nik De Dominic (born 1981, United States)
  • Joan Didion (born 1934, United States)
  • Annie Dillard (born 1945, United States)
  • Alfred Döblin (1878-1957, Germany)
  • John Dolan (born 1955, United States)
  • Joe Dolce (born 1947, Australia)
  • Denis Donoghue (born 1928, Ireland)
  • John Dryden (1631–1700, England)

E-G[edit]

  • Klaus Ebner (born 1964, Austria)
  • Umberto Eco (1932–2016, Italy)
  • T. S. Eliot (1888–1965, United States)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882, United States)
  • Joseph Epstein (born 1937, United States)
  • Filip Erceg (born 1979, Croatia)
  • Barbara Ehrenreich (born 1941, United States)
  • Jaime Eyzaguirre, (1908–1968, Chile)
  • Anne Fadiman (born 1953, United States)
  • Femi Fani-Kayode (born 1960, Nigeria)
  • Frantz Fanon (1925–1961, Martinique)
  • Richard Farmer (1735–1797, England)
  • Benito Jerónimo Feijoo e Montenegro (1676–1764, Spain)
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919, United States)
  • Predrag Finci (born 1946, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • E. M. Forster (1879–1970, England)
  • John Foster (1770–1843, United Kingdom)
  • Ian Frazier (born 1951, United States)
  • Robert Fulghum (born 1937, United States)
  • Joan Fuster (1922–1992, Spain)
  • Harry Gamboa, Jr. (born 1951, United States)
  • Karl-Markus Gauß (born 1954, Austria)
  • Malcolm Gladwell (born 1963, United Kingdom)
  • Adam Gopnik (born 1956, United States)
  • Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002, United States)
  • Muhammad Loutfi Goumah (1886–1953, Egypt)
  • Paul Graham (born 1964, England)
  • Clement Greenberg (born 1909, United States)
  • A. C. Grayling (born 1949, United Kingdom)
  • Gordon Grice (born 1965, United States)
  • Stanka Gjurić (born 1956, Croatia)

H-J[edit]

  • Carla Harryman (born 1952, California)
  • William Hazlitt (1778–1830, England)
  • Peter Handke (born 1942 Griffen, Austria)
  • Saeko Himuro (1957–2008, Japan)
  • Fumi Hirano (born 1955, Japan)
  • Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011, United Kingdom)
  • Peter Hitchens (born 1951, United Kingdom)
  • Hugh Hood (1928–2000, Canada)
  • Langston Hughes (1902–1967, United States)
  • David Hume (1711–1776, United Kingdom)
  • Leigh Hunt (1784–1859, England)
  • Shigesato Itoi (born 1948, Japan)
  • Jwalamukhi (1938–2008, India)
  • Michael Johns (born 1964, United States)
  • Diane Johnson (born 1934, United States)
  • Samuel Johnson (1709–1784, England)
  • June Jordan (1936–2002, United States)

K-L[edit]

  • Steven G. Kellman (born 1947, United States)
  • Frank Kermode (1919–2010, United Kingdom)
  • Tracy Kidder (born 1945, United States)
  • Chuck Klosterman (born 1972, United States)
  • Rudy Kousbroek (1929–2010, Netherlands)
  • Hans Krieger (born 1933, Germany)
  • Miroslav Krleža (1893–1981, Croatia)
  • Tomislav Ladan (1932–2008, Serbia)
  • Laila Lalami (born 1968, Morocco)
  • Charles Lamb (1775–1834, England)
  • Shankar Lamichhane (Nepal)
  • Corinne Lee (United States)
  • Albert Leung (born 1961, Hong Kong)
  • C. S. Lewis (1898–1963, Ireland)
  • Li Ao (born 1935, China, Taiwan)
  • Liang Shiqiu (1903–1987. China, Taiwan)
  • Alan Lightman (born 1948, United States)
  • Tim Lilburn (born 1950, Canada)
  • Lin Wenyue (born 1933, Taiwan)
  • Joan Lindsay (1896–1984, Australia)
  • Lu Xun (1881–1936, China)

M-N[edit]

  • John McPhee (born 1931, United States)
  • Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949), Belgium)
  • Norman Mailer (1923–2007, United States)
  • Jorge Majfud (born 1969, Uruguay)
  • Nathan McCall (born 1955, United States)
  • Mary McCarthy (1912–1989, United States)
  • Tim McKay (1947–2006, United States)
  • Louis Menand (born 1952, United States)
  • H. L. Mencken (1880–1956, United States)
  • Arthur Miller (1915–2005, United States)
  • Pankaj Mishra (born 1969, India)
  • Donald Grant Mitchell (1822–1908, United States)
  • Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592, France)
  • Angela Morales (born 1966, United States)
  • Michele Moramarco (born 1953, Italy)
  • V. S. Naipaul (born 1932, Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Nakane Kōtei (1839–1913, Japan)
  • Ukichiro Nakaya (1900–1962, Japan)
  • Marie NDiaye (born 1967, France)
  • Virgil Nemoianu (born 1940, Romania)
  • Kathleen Norris (born 1947, United States)

O-R[edit]

  • Joyce Carol Oates (born 1938, United States)
  • George Orwell (1903–1950, United Kingdom)
  • Borislav Pekić (1930–1992, Serbia)
  • Noel Perrin (1927–2004, United States)
  • Samuel F. Pickering Jr. (born 1941, United States)
  • Mestrius Plutarch (46–127, Boeotia, Ancient Greece)
  • Katherine Ann Porter (1890–1980, United States)
  • Kevin Prufer (born 1969, United States)
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849, United States)
  • Thomas de Quincey (1785–1859, England)
  • Indra Bahadur Rai (born 1927, India)
  • Kenneth Rexroth (1905–1985, United States)
  • Tjalie Robinson (1911–1974, Netherlands)
  • Richard Rodriguez (born 1944, United States)
  • Arundhati Roy (born 1961, India)
  • Bertrand Russell (1872–1970, United Kingdom)

S[edit]

  • Rahul Sankrityayan (1893–1963, India)
  • Edward Said (1935–2003, Palestine)
  • John Ralston Saul (born 1947, Canada)
  • Dan Schneider (born 1965, United States)
  • Robert Schumann (1810–1856, Germany)
  • David Sedaris (born 1956, United States)
  • John Robert Seeley (1834–1895, England)
  • Rafael Calvo Serer (1916–1988, Spain)
  • George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950, Ireland)
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822, England)
  • David Shields (1956, United States)
  • Clay Shirky (born 1964, United States)
  • Simeon Simev (born 1949, Republic of Macedonia)
  • Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' (1908–1974, India)
  • Jean Edward Smith (born 1932, United States)
  • Zadie Smith (born 1975, England)
  • Walid Soliman (born 1975, Tunisia)
  • Rebecca Solnit (born 1961, United States)
  • Susan Sontag (1933–2004, United States)
  • Dejan Stojanović (born 1959, Serbia)
  • Lytton Strachey (1880–1932, United Kingdom)
  • Cheryl Strayed (born 1968, United States)
  • Matias Skard (1846-1827, Norway)

T-Y[edit]

  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb (born 1960, Lebanon)
  • Alain Tasso (born 1962, Lebanon)
  • Vijay Tendulkar (1928–2008, India)
  • Issa Laye Thiaw (born 1943, Senegal)
  • Colm Tóibín (born 1955, Ireland)
  • Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910, Russia)
  • Lionel Trilling (1905–1975, United States)
  • George W. S. Trow (1943–2006, United States)
  • Andrew Vachss (born 1942, United States)
  • Paul Valéry (1871–1945, France)
  • Erico Verissimo (1905–1975, Brazil)
  • Gore Vidal (1925–2012, United States)
  • Voltaire (1697–1778, France)
  • Richard Wagner (1813–1883, Germany)
  • David Foster Wallace (1962–2008, United States)
  • Rebecca West (1892–1983, United Kingdom)
  • E. B. White (1899–1985, United States)
  • Oscar Wilde (1852–1900, Ireland)
  • Tom Wolfe (born 1931, United States)
  • Virginia Woolf (1882–1941, United Kingdom)
  • Yang Jiang (1911–2016, China)
  • Marguerite Yourcenar (1903–1987, France)

The Victorian Era

April 11, 2010 at 11:37 am

The Victorian Era, which dominates most of the nineteenth century (1830 – 1901) is named after Queen Victoria, who (until now) was England’s longest reigning monarch. Although it is fallacious to characterize this nearly century long period in British history monolithic-ally, for our purposes I will focus on some Victorian issues that impact the development of literature. There were, actually, three distinct stages in Victorianism:

Stage One.

The first from 1830 -50, which was marked by radical social uphevals in both Europe and England in which a working class began to revolt, and  socialism began to accelerate as either a danger or a salvation (depending upon your politics, I suppose). The result in England were a series of Reform Bills in the 1830s – 40s that revolutionized the principles behind a working nation. For instance, it gave more political power to workers, unions, voting, etc. It established the first child labor laws and health and safety mandates. Also, England began to change tax codes to help the middle and working class. It was far from modern and the “welfare” state England would develop even further in the early 20th century, but it showed England becoming much more socially conscious.

Stage Two:

The Second Period, 1850 – 1870 marked the period of incredible growth of “Empire” and economic prosperity, the things we tend to characterize Britain with of this time. The explosion of industry, the expansion of trade and colonization around the world, and the beginnings of modern science and technology made England into THE superpower on the globe. England was by this time, consummately, Great Britain, and the sun never set on the Yukon Jack.

Stage Three:

Third Period: 1870 – 1901. During this time there came a growing suspicion and criticism within England of its role as superpower, or Empire. There was also a growing skepticism and even loathing of Victorianism and its sense of pride, moralisms and enervating sense of culture (as you see in Matthew Arnold’s prose, and Oscar Wilde’s wit and satire aimed at Victorian prudery and moralistic attitude). During this period, some of the greatest and, for many, most shocking discoveries and advances in natural science were being made, particularly Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and the confirmation by geologists that the earth was far far far far far far far more older than 5,000 years.

The Earthquake of Natural Science.

The effects of advances in natural science on culture, religion and society cannot be overstated. Darwin’s books on evolution and natural selection proved uncomfortable aspects of our world at the same time that they were an assault on Christian religious truths (and often not so subtle in its attack). By theorizing (and proving some of it pretty well for a nineteenth century scientist) that we evolved from lower species, Darwin outright rejected the notion that humans are singularly created. In rejecting Creationism, Darwin also proceeds to reject all notions that humans function by the guidance of transcendent moral codes. Instead, Darwin argues that our sense of morality has been socially constructed, engendered over centuries of the human as a social and instinctual animal.

If Darwin had been an isolated phenomenon, an individual speaking alone, he may have been simply considered a crackpot. However, Darwin was researching and writing during this time in which natural scientists in England were canvasing the globe in an attempt to empirically understand the world with the same energy and ambition as explorers and colonizers took over the world. At the same time that Darwin posited Evolution and Natural Selection, geologists were successfully proving that the earth was no 5,000 years old, but millions, perhaps billions of years old, another assault upon Biblical truth and mythology that had established religious ideology in England for nearly 1,800 years.

Explosion of Existential Thought.

Contiguous to the advances in natural science, philosophers began to radically question established truths, assumptions and ideologies by which the British lived by and in which they had believed for centuries. Philosophers such as Nietzsche posed often frightening challenges to comfortable metaphysical philosophy by engaging in what you might call a “demythologizing” philosophy, an inquiry suspicious of anything by which we hang on to as truth, questioning everything. For the first time, God’s existence came into question in an organized and systematic way. And, for one of the first times, atheists, spiritualists, occultists, anarchists, etc., gathered and publicallyspoke and wrote, whereas many with such beliefs only a century earlier would have been persecuted.

A De-mythologizing Era.

Paul Ricoeur(one of the greatest late twentieth century philosophers) famously labelled the discourse of the late 1800s, “the hermeneutics of suspicion.” It is a period in which many sacred, assumed, and sometmies naive truths become “demythologized.” For one of the first time, there is a dominantly growing philosophical and theological discourse rejecting Creation, and a more minority voice that begins rejecting God.

In short, the late 1800s undergoes seachangesin British thought. Although such thinking does not radically change the British and Victorian social fabric and Europe’s belief in their dominant and God-given role to lead the world, it establishes the darker, more suspicious and existential tone that would be instrumental in the radical breaks with tradition in the fervent period of Modernism during and after World War I.

Literary Movements in Victorianism.

The literature of the period we are looking at for April 20th is from roughly 1850 until 1900, falling during the greatest expansions of British Empire and the consequent skepticism and disillusion with Empire as the 1900s approach.

The Novel.

The dominant genre during the Victorian era was prose, particularly the novel. The novel came into its own in the mid 1800s with such greats as Dickens, Trollope, Thackeray, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, George Eliot, and many others. We would not have time in the intensity of a mod combined witha survey course to do justice to the novel of the 1800s (which is why I run a course on this every other year). The Victorian novel was very much a product of an explosion of middle class literacy and a growing publishing industry. Novels were, for the most part, a form of high entertainment. Most novels were published in serial format in newspapers in England, where people could follow on a weekly basis a novel by, say, Dickens. They were, in a sense, the “soap operas” of the 1800s. In fact, most novels serialized in newspapers were extravagantly illustrated withincredible prints and drawings, an element that is lost from our experience with the reprinted book format.

Poetry.

Poetry underwent changes (many would argue, including me, not for the better). A dominant group of poets, like Robert Browning, reacted against what they felt was the soppy, rose-colored, sweet and flighty poetry of late Romanticism (think Shelley), and developed a more prosey poetry that focuses more on narrative, concrete issues in a “real” world. But, as the 1800s moved on, there was also a growing group of poets who react against the increasingly prosaic “realism” of the 1800s, and write a very romantic poetry that grows at times as ridiculously sweet and vacuous at the same time that it can be beautiful. In the early 1900s, T.S. Eliot would famously argue that since the 1700s, poetry has undergone a radical and unfortunate shift: poetry is either intellectual / cerebral, or it is emotional / romantic. Never again, he argued, since the Metaphysical poets of the late 1600s has poetry fused both intellect and emotion. It would be the really soppy, moody poetry of the late 1800s that Eliot reacts against with his groundbreaking modernist poems in the 1910s and 1920s.

Prose–The Essay.

Prose, particularly the essay, becomes just as central as the novel during this period. I’ve already talked about the earth-shaking effects of people like Darwin’s published books. The dominance of the essay mirrors the growing concern with the world around us, the real social issues of people, during Victorianism. The terms “Realism” has often been used to describe this period. Most Victorian novelists and essayists were interested in realism, in depicting the world as accurately as possible. A result of looking at the world head on is a growing criticism and suspicion of what authors see. Hence, Dickens many novels that expose social ills.

Matthew Arnold: Critic and, Possibly, Cultural Prophet.

Matthew Arnold is one of the great social voices of the Victorian era. He is the era’s greatest critic, while at the same time he is also the epitome of Victorianism in his belief that we all can change and reform everything (the idea of Utopianism has its explosion during this era).

Particularly in Culture and Anrachy, Arnold criticizes the narrow-minded, mechanical, industrial and material mindset of Victorian England, particularly amonst its middle class. He believed that industry and the machine had developed a “Puritanical” British middle class, one more intereted in moralisms and rules designed to benefit social/financial advancement. Arnold hankers for a return to “Hellenistic” thought. By this, he means a mind (like the ancient Greeks) that breaks from its narrow, material concerns, and roams over all possibilities, all interests, particularly cultural interests.

Arnold (rightfully, I believe) feared that the material culture of England was developing minds growing narrower, more concerned with self-interest, expediancy, and industry. He feared this would lead to ignorance and bigotry. He famously called the puritanical middle class in England, “Philistines,” which has come to mean shallow, narrow minded and uncultured. What Arnold envisioned was an England that would shift more emphasis to the study of literature, art and music (now that England was Empire and had excelled in industry) in order to cultivate minds for a more literate future. His notion of studying the “touchstones of history” had a huge effect on our present day notion of a literary “canon,” the implicitly accepted list of works that appear on a syllabus and that a student reads and studies in secondary school and college.

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