Famous 18th Century Essayists

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 1 Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 18, 1709
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lichfield, England
Died: December 13, 1784

Essayist, biographer, lexicographer, and literary critic Samuel Johnson, or Dr. Johnson, is remembered for his A Dictionary of the English Language and Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets. He was also a poet, a playwright, and a staunch Tory. His mannerisms indicated he had Tourette syndrome.

 2 Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: January 31, 1775
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Inner Temple, London, England
Died: December 27, 1834

Renowned British essayist Charles Lamb was a major figure of the Romantic period. He is best remembered for his Essays of Elia and his book of abridged versions of Shakespeare’s plays, Tales from Shakespeare, which he co-wrote with his sister, Mary. He had also once spent time in a mental facility.

 3 Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift
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Famous As: Satirist & Author of 'Gulliver's Travels',' A Tale of a Tub' and 'A Modest Proposal'
Birthdate: November 30, 1667
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: October 19, 1745

Eighteenth-century essayist, poet, and pamphleteer Jonathan Swift is remembered for his iconic works such as A Tale of a Tub, A Modest Proposal, and Gulliver's Travels. One of the world’s greatest satirists, he gave rise to the deadpan Swiftian style. He had also been the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

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 4 Washington Irving

Washington Irving
4
Famous As: Author, Historian, Diplomat
Birthdate: April 3, 1783
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York
Died: November 28, 1859

Widely known as the first American man of letters, Washington Irving penned the legendary tales of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which are also called the first short stories by an American author. He had also had a brief stint as a lawyer.

 5 William Hazlitt

William Hazlitt
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Famous As: English Writer & Literary Critic
Birthdate: April 10, 1778
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Maidstone, Kent, England
Died: September 18, 1830

English essayist and critic William Hazlitt is remembered for his characteristic humanism in his works. Initially aspiring to be a painter, he traveled to Paris but later deviated to philosophy and metaphysics. Though he penned iconic works such as The Spirit of the Age, he spent his later life in oblivion.

 6 Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt
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Famous As: English Essayist, Poet & Critic
Birthdate: October 19, 1784
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Southgate, London, England
Died: August 28, 1859

Known for poems such as Abou Ben Adhem, 19th-century English poet, critic, and essayist Leigh Hunt had founded the newspaper The Examiner, with his brother. Apart from critiquing the politics, theater, and art of his time, he also criticized Prince Regent George, an act that put him behind bars briefly.

 7 Thomas De Quincey

Thomas De Quincey
3
Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: August 15, 1785
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Manchester
Died: December 8, 1859

Essayist Thomas De Quincey is best remembered for his iconic book Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which initially appeared in the London Magazine. The work was an autobiographical account of his own addiction to opium, which he had begun consuming to help him deal with the pain of his facial neuralgia.

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 8 Hannah More

Hannah More
3
Famous As: Writer, Poet, Essayist
Birthdate: February 2, 1745
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fishponds
Died: September 7, 1833

English religious author Hannah More soared to literary fame with the release of Village Politics, penned under the pseudonym Will Chip. Its popularity made her write an entire series of tracts that educated the poor. She also established clubs and schools, apart from opposing slavery along with the Clapham Sect.

 9 J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur
3
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 31, 1735
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Caen, France
Died: November 12, 1813

 10 George Psalmanazar

George Psalmanazar
3
Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: 1679 AD
Birthplace: South France
Died: May 3, 1763

 11 Ludvig Holberg

Ludvig Holberg
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 3, 1684
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bergen, Norway
Died: January 28, 1754

One of the forefathers of Norwegian and Danish literature, Ludvig Holberg was a legendary literary figure of the Dano-Norwegian dual monarchy era. Initially a French tutor, he later studied music, before devoting himself to writing. His comedies earned him the nickname of The Molière of the North.

 12 Anna Letitia Barbauld

Anna Letitia Barbauld
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: June 20, 1743
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Leicestershire, England
Died: March 9, 1825

Best known for including political and social themes in her writings, Anna Letitia Barbauld was a renowned poet, essayist, and children’s author. She was the only daughter of Unitarian John Aikin and taught at the Palgrave Academy. She is remembered for her iconic hymn “Life! I Know Not What Thou Art.”

 13 Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle

Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 11, 1657
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Died: January 9, 1757

 14 Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois

Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 19, 1749
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 8, 1796

Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois was a French actor, essayist, dramatist, and revolutionary. He played an important role during the Reign of Terror, serving as one of the most important members of the Committee of Public Safety. Although he is credited with saving Madame Tussaud from the Guillotine, Collot d'Herbois oversaw the execution of over 2,000 people in Lyon.

 15 Elizabeth Montagu

Elizabeth Montagu
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Famous As: Critic
Birthdate: October 2, 1718
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: York, England
Died: August 25, 1800

Part of the 18th-century London intellectual circle, socialite Elizabeth Montagu was a pioneering member of the Bluestockings, a group of women who engaged in evening conversations as a substitute to card-playing. The wife of affluent landowner Edward Montagu, she inherited his riches and later built the Montagu House.

 16 Joseph Joubert

Joseph Joubert
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Famous As: Philosopher, Essayist, Writer
Birthdate: May 7, 1754
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montignac
Died: May 4, 1824

 17 Judith Sargent Stevens Murray

Judith Sargent Stevens Murray
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Famous As: Advocate
Birthdate: May 1, 1751
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Gloucester, Massachusetts, United States
Died: July 9, 1820

 18 Anacharsis Cloots

Anacharsis Cloots
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: June 24, 1755
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kleve, Germany
Died: March 24, 1794

Anacharsis Cloots was a Prussian nobleman who played a significant role in the French Revolution. Born into a wealthy family, he spent his youth traveling across the world preaching his revolutionary ideas. He was a world federalist and is believed to be the first person to advocate a world parliament. He was nicknamed "a personal enemy of God." 

 19 Louis-Sébastien Mercier

Louis-Sébastien Mercier
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 6, 1740
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 25, 1814

 20 Hartley Coleridge

Hartley Coleridge
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 19, 1796
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kingsdown, England
Died: January 6, 1849

The eldest son of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Hartley Coleridge grew up spending most of his time reading and was closely associated with poets Robert Southey and William Wordworth. Though he gained a fellowship at Oriel, he later lost it due to his alcoholism and his inconsistency.

 21 Francesco Algarotti

Francesco Algarotti
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Famous As: Polymath
Birthdate: December 11, 1712
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Venice, Italy
Died: May 3, 1764

 22 Sylvain Maréchal

Sylvain Maréchal
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: August 15, 1750
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 18, 1803

 23 Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues

Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: August 6, 1715
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Aix-en-Provence, France
Died: May 28, 1747

 24 Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro

Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro
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Famous As: Monk
Birthdate: October 8, 1676
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Casdemiro, Spain
Died: September 26, 1764

Eighteenth-century Spanish essayist Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro was a monk of the Benedictine order and also taught theology and philosophy at the University of Oviedo. He later wrote on a variety of subjects such as medicine, philology, and law, in Teatro crítico universal and Cartas eruditas y curiosas.

 25 Jacques-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne

Jacques-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne
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Famous As: Architect
Birthdate: April 23, 1756
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: La Rochelle, France
Died: June 3, 1819

Jacques-Nicolas Billaud-Varenne was a French lawyer and politician of the Revolutionary period. An influential personality, Billaud-Varenne played an important role during the Reign of Terror and is regarded as a key architect of the Reign of Terror. One of the most important members of the Committee of Public Safety, Billaud-Varenne worked with influential figures like Maximilien Robespierre and Georges Danton.

 26 Konstantin Batyushkov

Konstantin Batyushkov
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 29, 1787
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vologda, Russia
Died: July 19, 1855

 27 Ferenc Kölcsey

Ferenc Kölcsey
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 8, 1790
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Sauca, Romania
Died: August 24, 1838

Best remembered as the author of the Hungarian national anthem, Ferenc Kölcsey was orphaned and even lost an eye in childhood. Though a trained lawyer, he later focused on reviving Hungarian literature. He had also been part of the Hungarian Diet, as a prominent liberal leader.

 28 Francis Jeffrey, Lord Jeffrey

Francis Jeffrey, Lord Jeffrey
1
Famous As: Judge
Birthdate: October 23, 1773
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: January 26, 1850

 29 José Cadalso

José Cadalso
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 8, 1741
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cádiz, Spain
Died: February 26, 1782

José Cadalso was a colonel of the Royal Spanish Army in the 18th century. He was also a well-known author, playwright, poet, and essayist. As an army man, he traveled through Italy, Germany, England, France, and Portugal and studied the literature of these countries. He is credited to have made massive contributions to Spanish Enlightenment literature. 

 30 Étienne Pivert de Senancour

Étienne Pivert de Senancour
1
Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: November 16, 1770
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 10, 1846

 31 Henry Francis Cary

Henry Francis Cary
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Famous As: Biographer
Birthdate: December 6, 1772
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Gibraltar, United Kingdom
Died: August 14, 1844

Henry Francis Cary is best remembered for translating Dante’s Divine Comedy in blank verse. He had also penned several biographies of British and French authors. Educated at Oxford, he had also worked at the British Museum as an assistant librarian and was an Anglican clergy.

 32 Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens

Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens
1
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 24, 1704
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Aix-en-Provence, France
Died: January 11, 1771

 33 Pierre-Claude-François Daunou

Pierre-Claude-François Daunou
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Famous As: French statesman
Birthdate: August 18, 1761
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Boulogne, France
Died: June 20, 1840

 34 John Banim

John Banim
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Famous As: Authors
Birthdate: April 3, 1798
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kilkenny, Ireland
Died: August 30, 1842

 35 Vincenzo Cuoco

Vincenzo Cuoco
1
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: October 1, 1770
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Molise, Italy
Died: December 14, 1823

 36 Charles-François Lebrun

Charles-François Lebrun
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Famous As: Statesman
Birthdate: March 19, 1739
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saint-Sauveur-Lendelin, France
Died: June 16, 1824

 37 William Radcliffe

William Radcliffe
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Famous As: Inventor
Birthdate: 1761 AD
Birthplace: England
Died: May 20, 1842

William Radcliffe had his own powerloom weaving factory and invented a machine for improving the quality of cloth, though his mill was later destroyed by the Luddites. His iconic essay on the new technology of weaving was later published as a significant treatise of the Industrial Revolution.

 38 Vasily Trediakovsky

Vasily Trediakovsky
1
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 5, 1703
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Astrakhan, Russia
Died: August 17, 1768

 39 George Colman the Elder

George Colman the Elder
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Famous As: Dramatist
Birthdate: March 31, 1732
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: August 14, 1794

 40 Pierre, comte Daru

Pierre, comte Daru
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Famous As: French military administrator
Birthdate: January 12, 1767
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Montpellier, France
Died: September 5, 1829

 41 Caroline Howard Gilman

Caroline Howard Gilman
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 1794 AD
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: 1888 AD

 42 Jean-Baptiste Louvet

Jean-Baptiste Louvet
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 12, 1760
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 25, 1797

 43 Buenaventura Carles Aribau

Buenaventura Carles Aribau
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 4, 1798
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Barcelona, Spain
Died: September 27, 1862