Famous 19th Century Essayists

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 T. S. Eliot

T. S. Eliot.
Famous As: Poet, Essayist, Playwright
Birthdate: September 26, 1888
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: January 4, 1965
American-born British poet T. S. Eliot is best remembered for his poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and Ash Wednesday, and his plays such as Murder in the Cathedral. He won the Nobel Prize for literature and became a prominent figure of Modernist poetry.  

 2 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Famous As: American Lecturer, Philosopher, Essayist & Poet
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.

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 3 Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges.
Famous As: Poet & Short Story Writer
Birthdate: August 24, 1899
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died: June 14, 1986

Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentine essayist, poet, short-story writer, and translator. An important figure in Spanish-language literature, Jorge Luis Borges' works have contributed immensely to fantasy and the philosophical literature genre. It is also said that his works, which incorporated themes like labyrinths, dreams, and mythology, marked the beginning of 20th-century Latin American literature's magic realist movement.

 4 E. B. White

E. B. White.
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 11, 1899
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mount Vernon, New York, United States
Died: October 1, 1985

 5 E. M. Forster

E. M. Forster.
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 1, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Marylebone
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.

 6 Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin.
Famous As: Philosopher, Cultural Critic, Essayist
Birthdate: July 15, 1892
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: September 27, 1940

Walter Benjamin was a German Jewish essayist, philosopher, and cultural critic. An eclectic thinker, Benjamin made significant contributions to literary criticism, aesthetic theory, and historical materialism. Although Benjamin's work did not earn much recognition during his lifetime, it continues to be revered by academics several years after his death.

 7 Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley.
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Godalming
Died: November 22, 1963

English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley wrote countless books, including novels, short stories, non-fiction, and poems. He is best remembered for his science-fiction novels Brave New World and Island. The seven-time Nobel Prize nominee was also a Companion of Literature of the Royal Society of Literature and a Vedanta believer.

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 8 Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson.
Famous As: Novelist, Poet
Birthdate: November 13, 1850
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: December 3, 1894

Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish travel writer, poet, and novelist. A popular writer in his lifetime, Stevenson went about traveling widely and writing prolifically even as he suffered from bronchial trouble; his will power and love for writing won the hearts of many other writers. In 2018, he was ranked as the world's 26th-most-translated author.

 9 D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence.
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Eastwood, England
Died: March 2, 1930

English writer, D. H. Lawrence, was known for exploring sensitive issues, such as sexuality, emotional health,  and instinct. In his works, he often reflected upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. The sexual nature of his writings earned him many enemies. Even though he died at the relatively young age of 44, he left behind a rich literary legacy.

 10 John Ruskin

John Ruskin.
Famous As: Art Critic and Painter
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.

 11 Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter.
Famous As: Journalist, Essayist, Writer, Novelist
Birthdate: May 15, 1890
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Indian Creek, Texas, U.S.
Died: September 18, 1980

 12 Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold.
Famous As: Poet
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.

 13 August Strindberg

August Strindberg.
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 14 Nikos Kazantzakis

Nikos Kazantzakis.
Famous As: Philosopher and Writer
Birthdate: February 18, 1883
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Heraklion
Died: October 25, 1957

Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek writer whose works earned him nine nominations for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. Regarded as a giant of modern Greek literature, Kazantzakis achieved international fame when his works, such as The Life And Times Of Alexis Zorba and The Last Temptation of Christ, were adapted into feature films. 

 15 Thomas Babington Macaulay

Thomas Babington Macaulay
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: October 25, 1800
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Leicestershire, England
Died: December 28, 1859

A prominent Whig and essayist Thomas Babington Macaulay is best remembered for his 5-volume History of England. Though a qualified lawyer, he never took it up as a career. As part of his administrative work in India later, he introduced English as the chief medium of instruction in schools.

 16 Lou Andreas-Salomé

Lou Andreas-Salomé
Famous As: Psychoanalyst
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.

 17 Lu Xun

Lu Xun
Famous As: Writer, Essayist, Poet, Literary critic, Esperantist
Birthdate: September 25, 1881
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Shaoxing
Died: October 19, 1936

Lu Xun was a Chinese writer, poet, essayist, and literary critic. An important and influential personality of modern Chinese literature, Lu Xun's work influenced Chinese literature and popular culture after the May Fourth Movement. Mao Zedong, a lifelong admirer of Lu's work, declared him the saint of modern China shortly after his death. His works have been translated into English.

 18 Knut Hamsun

Knut Hamsun.
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 4, 1859
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lom
Died: February 19, 1952

Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian author Knut Hamsun, a leading figure of neo-romanticism, is best remembered for his novel Hunger, which narrated the tale of a starving writer. With little education, he had started his career as a shoemaker’s apprentice. He supported the Nazi occupation of Norway and was later imprisoned.

 19 Corneliu Zelea Codreanu

Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
Famous As: Politician, Essayist
Birthdate: September 13, 1899
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Huși
Died: November 30, 1938

 20 Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann.
Famous As: Novelist, Short Story Writer
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.

 21 Adam Mickiewicz

Adam Mickiewicz
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 24, 1798
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Zavosse, Belarus
Died: November 26, 1855

 22 Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau
Famous As: Linguist, Journalist, Economist, Historian, Translator, Writer, Sociologist, Essayist, Feminist
Birthdate: June 12, 1802
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Norwich
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.

 23 Mark Twain

Mark Twain.
Famous As: Writer
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.

 24 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr..
Famous As: Writer, Physician
Birthdate: August 29, 1809
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cambridge
Died: October 7, 1894

 25 James Russell Lowell

James Russell Lowell
Famous As: Poet, Diplomat, Essayist, Writer, Literary critic, Journalist
Birthdate: February 22, 1819
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cambridge
Died: August 12, 1891

 26 Giacomo Leopardi

Giacomo Leopardi
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 29, 1798
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Recanati, Italy
Died: June 14, 1837

Giacomo Leopardi was one of the greatest lyric poets of the 19th century. Born into a noble family, he mastered several languages and wrote many works by 16, in spite of suffering from a cerebrospinal ailment. Remembered for his iconic works such as A Silvia, he died during a cholera epidemic.

 27 Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson.
Famous As: Writer
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.

 28 Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara
Famous As: Art collector, Poet, Writer, Diplomat, Film director, Translator, Playwright, Essayist, Composer, Musician, Performance artist, Literary critic
Birthdate: April 16, 1896
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moineşti
Died: December 25, 1963

 29 Romain Rolland

Romain Rolland
Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Essayist, Historian, Novelist, Musicologist
Birthdate: January 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clamecy, Nièvre
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.

 30 Lysander Spooner

Lysander Spooner
Famous As: Lawyer, Journalist, Essayist, Philosopher
Birthdate: January 19, 1808
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Athol
Died: May 14, 1887

 31 Robert Musil

Robert Musil
Famous As: Writer, Librarian, Novelist, Playwright, Screenwriter, Essayist
Birthdate: November 6, 1880
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Klagenfurt
Died: April 15, 1942

Best remembered for his incomplete novel The Man Without Qualities, Austrian-German novelist Robert Musil had worked as a librarian, editor, and journalist and was also a qualified mechanical engineer. He had also served in the army during World War I but mostly gained fame as a modernist writer.

 32 Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam
Famous As: Poet, Writer, Translator, Literary critic, Essayist
Birthdate: January 15, 1891
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Warsaw
Died: December 27, 1938

 33 Hermann Oberth

Hermann Oberth
Famous As: Physicist, Engineer, Essayist, Screenwriter
Birthdate: June 25, 1894
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sibiu
Died: December 28, 1989

Austro-Hungarian-born German physicist and engineer Hermann Oberth is regarded as one of the founding fathers of astronautics and rocketry along with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Esnault-Pelterie, and Robert Goddard. His classic book The Rocket into Planetary Space gained him widespread attention. Oberth garnered a patent for his rocket design and launched his first rocket near Berlin, Germany, on May 7, 1931.

 34 Edmund Wilson

Edmund Wilson
Famous As: Journalist, Poet, Playwright, Literary critic, Essayist, Social critic, Writer
Birthdate: May 8, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Red Bank
Died: June 12, 1972

 35 Edmond Rostand

Edmond Rostand
Famous As: Playwright, Writer, Poet, Essayist, Screenwriter
Birthdate: April 1, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marseille
Died: December 2, 1918

 36 Alfred Doblin

Alfred Doblin.
Famous As: Writer, Doctor
Birthdate: August 10, 1878
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Szczecin
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. 

 37 Emilia Pardo Bazán

Emilia Pardo Bazán
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 38 J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur

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

 39 Sully Prudhomme

Sully Prudhomme
Famous As: Poet, Writer, Essayist, Diarist
Birthdate: March 16, 1839
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris
Died: September 7, 1907

 40 Benjamin Jowett

Benjamin Jowett
Famous As: Tutor
Birthdate: April 15, 1817
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Camberwell, London, England
Died: October 1, 1893

Proving himself to be a brilliant classical scholar in school, Benjamin Jowett gained a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, where he was eventually elected a master and vice-chancellor. The 19th-century academic and Anglican theologian is remembered for his translation of The Dialogues of Plato and other classical texts.

 41 Anna Letitia Barbauld

Anna Letitia Barbauld
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.”

 42 Eugene Field

Eugene Field
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 2, 1850
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: November 4, 1895

 43 Léon Bloy

Léon Bloy
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 11, 1846
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac, Sanilhac, France
Died: November 3, 1917

 44 Giuseppe Ungaretti

Giuseppe Ungaretti.
Famous As: Poet, Essayist
Birthdate: February 8, 1888
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt
Died: June 1, 1970

Giuseppe Ungaretti was an Italian poet, essayist, journalist, academic, and critic. One of the most important contributors to Italian literature during the 20th century, Ungaretti was honored with the first Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1970. He is credited with popularizing hermetic poetry, a form of difficult and obscure poetry.

 45 A. C. Benson

A. C. Benson.
Famous As: English essayist
Birthdate: April 24, 1862
Sun Sign: Taurus
Died: June 17, 1925

Born to the archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, author and critic A. C. Benson is best known for penning the song Land of Hope and Glory, which was played at the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. He also served as the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

 46 Judith Sargent Stevens Murray

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

 47 John Fiske

John Fiske
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: March 30, 1842
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: July 4, 1901

 48 Robert Collier

Robert Collier
Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: April 19, 1885
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: 1950 AD

 49 Sarah Helen Power Whitman

Sarah Helen Power Whitman
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: January 19, 1803
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Providence, Rhode Island, United States
Died: June 27, 1878

 50 Juan Donoso Cortés

Juan Donoso Cortés
Famous As: Politician, Writer
Birthdate: May 6, 1809
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Valle de la Serena, Spain
Died: May 3, 1853