Famous 19th Century Essayists

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 1 
Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Famous For his Essay 'Nature' and Speech Entitled 'The American Scholar')
Ralph Waldo Emerson
5
Birthdate: May 25, 1803
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 27, 1882

Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American philosopher who led the transcendentalist movement that developed in the eastern United States in the 1820s and 1830s. He is credited with popularizing individualism through his numerous lectures and essays. Emerson influenced many thinkers and writers that followed him; he mentored Henry David Thoreau, who went on to become a leading transcendentalist.

 2 
E. M. Forster
(English Author Known for His Novels: ‘A Room with a View’, ‘Howards End’ and ‘A Passage to India’)
E. M. Forster
8
Birthdate: January 1, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Marylebone, London, United Kingdom
Died: June 7, 1970

Best known for his iconic novels Howard’s End and A Passage to India, British author E. M. Forster dealt with themes such as class division and gender. Born in England and educated at Cambridge, he had also spent some time as a secretary to Maharaja Tukojirao III of India.

 3 
Charles Lamb
(English Essayist, Poet and Antiquarian Best Known for His Books: ‘Essays of Elia’ and ‘Tales from Shakespeare’)
Charles Lamb
4
Birthdate: 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.

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 4 
Walt Whitman
(One of the Most Influential Poets in the American Canon, Regarded as the 'Father of Free Verse')
Walt Whitman
4
Birthdate: May 31, 1819
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: West Hills, New York, United States
Died: March 26, 1892

Walt Whitman was an American poet, journalist, and essayist. Also a humanist, Whitman played a crucial role in the shift between transcendentalism and realism. Often referred to as the father of free verse, Whitman is one of the most influential American poets of all time. Several decades after his death, Walt Whitman's poetry remains influential.

 5 
P B Shelley
(One of the Epic Poets of the 19th Century)
P B Shelley
4
Birthdate: August 4, 1792
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Warnham, United Kingdom
Died: July 8, 1822
Legendary English Romantic poetry P.B. Shelley is remembered for his masterpieces such as Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, and Prometheus Unbound. He was known for his poetic imagery, and his popularity soared after his premature death due to drowning while boating at age 29. 
 6 
John Ruskin
(Art Critic and Painter)
John Ruskin
4
Birthdate: February 8, 1819
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: England
Died: January 20, 1900

The leading English art critic of the Victorian era, John Ruskin was a hugely influential figure in the latter half of the 19th century. Also a philosopher and prominent social thinker, he wrote on varied subjects like geology, architecture, education, botany, myth, ornithology, literature, and political economy. He founded the charitable trust Guild of St George.

 7 
Charles Baudelaire
(French Poet Known for His Handling of Rhyme & Rhythm and His Book 'Les Fleurs du mal')
Charles Baudelaire
4
Birthdate: April 9, 1821
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 31, 1867
French prose poet, essayist, and critic Charles Baudelaire was one of the first translators of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Best known for his book of poems Les Fleurs du mal, he is believed to have coined the word modernity and was associated with the symbolist and decadent movements.
 8 
Thomas Mann
(German Novelist Who Won the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature)
Thomas Mann
4
Birthdate: June 6, 1875
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lübeck, Germany
Died: August 12, 1955
German author Thomas Mann, known for his epic novels, was part of the Hanseatic Mann family of authors. He depicted his own family in his novel Buddenbrooks. He won the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature. During Hitler’s reign, he fled to Switzerland and then to the U.S.
 9 
H. L. Mencken
(One of the Greatest and Most Influential American Literary Critic in the 1920s)
H. L. Mencken
4
Birthdate: September 12, 1880
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died: January 29, 1956

H. L. Mencken was an American journalist, cultural critic, essayist, satirist, and scholar of American English. His reporting on the Scopes Trial earned him national recognition. The trial came to be known as the Scopes Monkey Trial as Mencken had nicknamed it Monkey Trial in accordance with his satirical reporting of the trial.

 10 
Jose Marti
(Cuban Nationalist, Poet and Philosopher)
Jose Marti
4
Birthdate: January 28, 1853
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Havana, Cuba
Died: May 19, 1895

Son of Spanish immigrants, Jose Marti spent his childhood in a strife-torn Cuba and attended high school on financial aid. Marti’s poems, essays, and articles were laced with his patriotic vigor to free Cuba from the Spanish rule. He died battling on the field at Dos Ríos.

 11 
Maxim Gorky
(Russian Writer Best Known for His Works 'The Lower Depths', 'Mother', 'Chelkash' and 'Children of the Sun')
Maxim Gorky
4
Birthdate: March 28, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Died: June 18, 1936

Maxim Gorky was a writer and political activist. He is best remembered for founding the socialist realism literary method. Gorky, who was nominated for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature on five occasions, published several novels that were later adapted into plays, films, and operas. In 1938, Valery Zhelobinsky adapted Gorky's novel Mother into an opera.

 12 
Katherine Anne Porter
(Journalist, Essayist, Writer, Novelist)
Katherine Anne Porter
4
Birthdate: May 15, 1890
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Indian Creek, Texas, U.S.
Died: September 18, 1980
 13 
Matthew Arnold
4
Birthdate: December 24, 1822
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Laleham, United Kingdom
Died: April 15, 1888

Iconic Victorian poet and literary critic Matthew Arnold is best remembered for his classic essay Culture and Anarchy, which was a social critique of the Victorian era. He also penned poems such as Dover Beach and Sohrab and Rustum. He had also been a school inspector for over 3 decades.

 14 
George Santayana
(Regarded as One of the Most Important Thinkers of the First Half of the 20th Century)
George Santayana
4
Birthdate: December 16, 1863
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Madrid, Spain
Died: September 26, 1952

One of George Santayana’s initial works, The Sense of Beauty, spoke about aesthetics, an oft-repeated topic in his later works. The Spanish-born American philosopher and Harvard professor is remembered for his quote “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” which has often been misattributed to Plato.

 15 
Heinrich Heine
(German Poet & Literary Critic Know for His Works 'Germany. A Winter's Tale' and 'Buch der Lieder')
Heinrich Heine
4
Birthdate: December 13, 1797
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Düsseldorf, Germany
Died: February 17, 1856

Heinrich Heine was a German poet, literary critic, and writer. He is known internationally for his lyric poetry, which was popularized by composers like Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann who adapted Heine's lyric poetry into art songs. Heinrich Heine's radical political views forced the German authorities to ban his works, which only added to his popularity.

 16 
August Strindberg
(Father of Modern Swedish Literature)
August Strindberg
3
Birthdate: January 22, 1849
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
Died: May 14, 1912

August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright, painter, essayist, novelist, and poet. He wrote over 30 works of fiction and more than 60 plays in an illustrious career that spanned 40 years. Widely regarded as the father of modern Swedish literature, Strindberg is best remembered for his work The Red Room, which is considered the first modern Swedish novel.

 17 
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
(Romanian Politician & Founder and Leader of the Legionary Movement (Iron Guard))
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
3
Birthdate: September 13, 1899
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Huși
Died: November 30, 1938

Romanian far-right politician Corneliu Zelea Codreanu founded the anti-Semitic and fascist movement called Iron Guard, also known as the Legionary Movement. While the movement turned into a successful political party, it was crushed by King Carol II, while Codreanu was imprisoned and then shot to death while escaping.

 18 
Adam Mickiewicz
(Best Known as One of Poland's 'Three Bards' & A Primary Figure in European Romanticism)
Adam Mickiewicz
3
Birthdate: December 24, 1798
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Zavosse, Belarus
Died: November 26, 1855

Adam Mickiewicz was a Polish poet, dramatist, essayist, and political activist. He was a major figure in Polish Romanticism and considered one of Poland's "Three Bards." He has long been regarded as Poland's national poet and is often compared to Byron and Goethe. The vast majority of his work is available only in Polish and has been reprinted numerous times. 

 19 
Joyce Kilmer
(Writer)
Joyce Kilmer
3
Birthdate: December 6, 1886
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States
Died: July 30, 1918
 20 
Harriet Martineau
(First female sociologist)
Harriet Martineau
3
Birthdate: June 12, 1802
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Norwich, Norfolk, England
Died: June 27, 1876

Regarded by many as the first female sociologist, Harriet Martineau was a prominent 19th-century social theorist, classical economist, and intellectual who penned the iconic work The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte. She was partially deaf and had lost her sense of taste and smell in childhood.

 21 
Mark Twain
(Lauded as the 'Greatest Humorist' the United States Has Produced)
Mark Twain
0
Birthdate: November 30, 1835
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Florida, Missouri, United States
Died: April 21, 1910

Mark Twain, “the father of American literature,” was one of the world’s greatest 19-th century humorists and authors. His novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were drawn from his childhood experiences in Missouri. In his later life, he sunk into bankruptcy and also recovered.

 22 
Henry Lawson
(Writer)
Henry Lawson
3
Birthdate: June 17, 1867
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Grenfell
Died: September 2, 1922

Henry Lawson was an Australian bush poet and writer. Often referred to as Australia's greatest short story writer, Lawson is one of the best-known Australian fiction writers and poets of the colonial period. Also a nationalist, Henry Lawson contributed immensely to a popular Australian magazine named The Bulletin. In 1949, he was featured in an Australian postage stamp.

 23 
Arthur Machen
(Welsh Author Best Known for His Influential Supernatural, Fantasy, and Horror Fiction)
Arthur Machen
3
Birthdate: March 3, 1863
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Caerleon, Monmouthshire, Wales
Died: December 15, 1947

Welsh writer Arthur Machen was a master of science-fiction and horror. He soared to fame with his novella The Great God Pan, which later achieved cult status. However, in spite of his literary fame, he continued to live in poverty, working as a journalist, a clerk, and a teacher.

 24 
Joseph Conrad
(Known for Short Stories and Novels Like Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness and the Secret Agent)
Joseph Conrad
0
Birthdate: December 3, 1857
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Berdychiv, Ukraine
Died: August 3, 1924

Joseph Conrad was a Polish-British writer. Considered one of the greatest English-language novelists of all time, Conrad is credited with bringing a non-English sensibility into English-language literature. Many of his works have inspired several films, TV series, and video games. His anti-heroic characters and narrative style have influenced many authors like Salman Rushdie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and T. S. Eliot.

 25 
Paul Valery
(French Poet, Essayist and Philosopher)
Paul Valery
3
Birthdate: October 30, 1871
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sète, France
Died: July 20, 1945

Paul Valery was a French poet, philosopher, and essayist. Thanks to his immense contribution to literature, Valery received several nominations for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. The title of the 2013 Japanese animated historical drama film The Wind Rises was inspired by one of Paul Valery's verses. Also, his poem Palme inspired James Merrill's celebrated poem, Lost in Translation.

 26 
Walter Bagehot
(Journalist, businessman, and essayist, who wrote extensively about government, economics, literature and race.)
Walter Bagehot
4
Birthdate: February 3, 1826
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Langport, Somerset, England
Died: March 24, 1877

Born to Stuckey's Bank MD Walter Bagehot was initially part of his father’s shipping and banking business. He later became the editor-in-chief of The Economist and married the publication’s founder James Wilson’s daughter. He penned path-breaking works such as Lombard Street and The English Constitution and co-established National Review.

 27 
Elbert Hubbard
3
Birthdate: June 19, 1856
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Bloomington, Illinois, United States
Died: May 7, 1915
 28 
Lou Andreas-Salomé
(Russian Novelist, Essayist and Psychoanalyst)
Lou Andreas-Salomé
3
Birthdate: February 12, 1861
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: February 5, 1937

Russian-born German author Lou Andreas-Salomé apparently rejected renowned philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s marriage proposal and then married a professor instead. A skilled psychoanalyst, she was also close to Rainer Maria Rilke and Sigmund Freud. She was one of the first to offer a psychoanalytic perspective to female sexuality.

 29 
Edward Thomas
3
Birthdate: March 3, 1878
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lambeth, Surrey, England
Died: April 9, 1917

Educated at Oxford, poet Edward Thomas spent a considerable time working rather reluctantly as a journalist and penning nature studies and critiques of 19th-century authors. An encounter with Robert Frost inspired him to write poems. He was killed in action in Arras, France, during World War I.

 30 
Mihai Eminescu
(The National Poet of Romania and a Major Figure of Romanticism)
Mihai Eminescu
3
Birthdate: January 15, 1850
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Botoșani, Romania
Died: June 15, 1889

Considered the national poet of Romania, Mihai Eminescu was a major figure of Romanticism in Romanian literature. Starting as an editor for the paper Timpul, he later penned iconic poems such as Luceafărul, or The Evening Star, and stories such as Sărmanul Dionis and Cezara. He, unfortunately, died in a mental asylum.

 31 
Lysander Spooner
(Lawyer, Journalist, Essayist, Philosopher)
Lysander Spooner
3
Birthdate: January 19, 1808
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Athol
Died: May 14, 1887
 32 
Walter Pater
(English Essayist, Literary Critic Famous for His Unique Style of Writings)
Walter Pater
3
Birthdate: August 4, 1839
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Stepney, London, England
Died: July 30, 1894

Nineteenth-century critic and essayist Walter Pater redefined aestheticism with his idea of "art for art’s sake." Though initially interested in a church career, he later studied classics and began writing reviews on Renaissance art. Marius the Epicurean remains his most notable work. Some of his works reveal his homosexuality.

 33 
William Dean Howells
3
Birthdate: March 1, 1837
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Martins Ferry, Ohio, U.S.
Died: May 11, 1920
 34 
Friedrich Schleiermacher
(German Theologian, Philosopher and an Early Leader in Liberal Christianity)
Friedrich Schleiermacher
3
Birthdate: November 21, 1768
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: February 12, 1834

Hailed as an early leader of liberal Christianity, Lutheran philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher was also an eminent biblical scholar and theologian. Best remembered for his works on hermeneutics and theory of translation, he also had a great impact on the evolution of higher criticism and became known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity.

 35 
Romain Rolland
(French Playwright, Essayist and Novelist Who Won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915)
Romain Rolland
3
Birthdate: January 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clamecy, France
Died: December 30, 1944

Romain Rolland was a French novelist, essayist, dramatist, mystic, and art historian. In 1915, Rolland was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. One of the most important supporters of Josef Stalin, Rolland is also remembered for his significant influence on Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud.

 36 
D. T. Suzuki
(Author)
D. T. Suzuki
3
Birthdate: October 18, 1870
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan
Died: July 12, 1966
 37 
Edmond Rostand
(Former poet and dramatist associated with neo-romanticism, became best-known for his 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac)
Edmond Rostand
3
Birthdate: April 1, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marseille, France
Died: December 2, 1918
 38 
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
(Novelist, Poet, Essayist)
Hugo von Hofmannsthal
3
Birthdate: February 1, 1874
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Landstraße, Vienna, Austria
Died: July 15, 1929

Known for his lyrical poetry and plays, Austrian author Hugo von Hofmannsthal had initially studied law and philology but later devoted his life to writing. His collaborative works with composer Richard Strauss included libretti for many of his operas, such as The Cavalier of the Rose and Arabella.

 39 
Leslie Stephen
(British Author, Critic, Historian, Biographer, and Mountaineer)
Leslie Stephen
3
Birthdate: November 28, 1832
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kensington Gore, London, England
Died: February 22, 1904

Sir Leslie Stephen was an English historian, biographer, author, critic, and mountaineer. Leslie Stephen also took an active part in the organized humanist movement, serving as the president of the West London Ethical Society on multiple occasions. He was the father of famous author, Virginia Woolf, and painter, Vanessa Bell.

 40 
Karl Kraus
(Austrian Writer and Journalist)
Karl Kraus
3
Birthdate: April 28, 1874
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Jicin, Czechia
Died: June 12, 1936

Initially aspiring to be a lawyer, Austrian writer Karl Kraus later deviated to philosophy and German literature before quitting studies altogether. He had also been a stage performer but later made his mark as one of the finest aphorists and playwrights in German history, with works such as Nights.

 41 
Maurice Maeterlinck
3
Birthdate: August 29, 1862
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ghent, Belgium
Died: May 6, 1949
 42 
Max Beerbohm
(English Essayist, Parodist and Caricaturist)
Max Beerbohm
3
Birthdate: August 24, 1872
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: May 20, 1956

Renowned caricaturist and essayist Max Beerbohm was the younger half-sibling of popular stage actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree. The Oxford alumnus succeeded George Bernard Shaw as a drama critic of the Saturday Review. Zuleika Dobson remains his only novel. He had been a radio broadcaster, too. Rumors claimed he was homosexual.

 43 
Edmund Wilson
(Journalist, Poet, Playwright, Literary critic, Essayist, Social critic, Writer)
Edmund Wilson
3
Birthdate: May 8, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Red Bank
Died: June 12, 1972
 44 
Emilia Pardo Bazán
(Writer Known for Introducing Naturalism Into Spanish Literature)
Emilia Pardo Bazán
3
Birthdate: September 16, 1851
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: A Coruña, Spain
Died: May 12, 1921

Spanish countess and novelist Emilia Pardo Bazán had initially gained fame with the essay The Critical Issue. She was an advocate of naturalism and free will. Known for novels such as The House of Ulloa, she also taught Romance literature and was divorced by her husband because of her literary success.

 45 
Charles W. Chesnutt
3
Birthdate: June 20, 1858
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Died: November 17, 1932
 46 
Sully Prudhomme
(Poet, Essayist, and was the first winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901)
Sully Prudhomme
3
Birthdate: March 16, 1839
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 6, 1907
 47 
Alfred Doblin
(German Writer and Doctor Best Known for His Novels: ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ and ‘The Three Leaps of Wang Lun’)
Alfred Doblin
3
Birthdate: August 10, 1878
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Szczecin, Poland
Died: June 26, 1957

Alfred Doblin was a German novelist, essayist, and doctor. He is considered one of the most important figures of German literary modernism. A prolific writer with a career spanning more than half a century, he wrote novels, dramas, screenplays, and radio plays across a range of genres. Despite the popularity he once enjoyed, he is believed to be under-recognized. 

Robert de Montesquiou
3
Birthdate: March 7, 1855
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 11, 1921
J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur
3
Birthdate: December 31, 1735
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Caen, France
Died: November 12, 1813
 50 
Charles Péguy
3
Birthdate: January 7, 1873
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Orléans, France
Died: September 5, 1914