Famous Briton Essayists

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 1 
George Orwell
(Known for His Novels “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four”)
George Orwell
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Birthdate: June 25, 1903
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Motihari, Bihar, India
Died: January 21, 1950

The king of dystopia and satire, George Orwell, the pen name adopted by Eric Arthur Blair, was a well-known novelist and critic of the 20th century. A man with a strong mind of his own, Orwell never backed down from stating his views on the socio-political climate he lived in, which he expressed profusely through his influential essays and novels.

 2 
T. S. Eliot
(Best Known as a Leader of the Modernist Movement in Poetry)
T. S. Eliot
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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.  
 3 
Samuel Johnson
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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.

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 4 
P B Shelley
(One of the Epic Poets of the 19th Century)
P B Shelley
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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. 
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 5 
W. H. Auden
(One of the Greatest Authors of 20th Century)
W. H. Auden
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Birthdate: February 21, 1907
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: York, England, United Kingdom
Died: September 29, 1973

W. H. Auden was an Anglo-American poet. His poetry was noted for its technical achievement and versatility. He wrote poems on love, political and social themes, and cultural and psychological themes. Throughout his career, Auden was both influential and controversial. His personal life also attracted attention as he had sexual relationships with men, which was unusual at the time.

 6 
Jonathan Swift
(Satirist & Author of 'Gulliver's Travels',' A Tale of a Tub' and 'A Modest Proposal')
Jonathan Swift
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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.

 7 
John Ruskin
(Art Critic and Painter)
John Ruskin
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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.

 8 
Douglas Adams
(Author of the BBC Radio Comedy Series "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy")
Douglas Adams
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Birthdate: March 11, 1952
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cambridge, England
Died: May 11, 2001

English author, screenwriter, and essayist, Douglas Adams, is most remembered for his comedy science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As a screenwriter, he wrote two stories for the TV series Doctor Who. He advocated for environmentalism and spoke about environmental issues in his non-fiction radio series Last Chance to See.

 9 
E. M. Forster
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Birthdate: January 1, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Marylebone, London, England
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.

 10 
V. S. Naipaul
(Trinidadian-Born British Writer Who Won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001)
V. S. Naipaul
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Birthdate: August 17, 1932
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Trinidad and Tobago
Died: August 11, 2018

Born to Indian descendants in Trinidad, V. S. Naipaul grew up to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The author of iconic novels such as Half a Life and A House for Mr. Biswas, Naipaul was also knighted. His realistic depiction of developing countries and their miseries won hearts worldwide.

 11 
Charles Lamb
(Essayist)
Charles Lamb
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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.

 12 
Zadie Smith
(Writer, Novelist, Essayist)
Zadie Smith
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Birthdate: October 25, 1975
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London

Author Zadie Smith was born in London to a British father and a Jamaican mother. Her bestselling debut novel, White Teeth, won numerous awards and catapulted her to fame, while her third novel, On Beauty, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She has also taught fiction at New York University.

 13 
Matthew Arnold
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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 
Joseph Addison
(Essayist & Poet)
Joseph Addison
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Birthdate: May 1, 1672
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Milston, United Kingdom
Died: June 17, 1719
Best known for his articles in the iconic 18th-century periodicals The Tatler and The Spectator, English essayist Joseph Addison had a lifelong collaboration with Richard Steele. Educated at Oxford, he excelled in Latin and classics. A prominent Whig, he mostly wrote on the social and cultural trends of his time.
 15 
Anthony Burgess
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Birthdate: February 25, 1917
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Harpurhey, Lancashire, England
Died: November 22, 1993
 16 
China Miéville
(Speculative Fiction & Fantasy Author Known for Her Work 'Perdido Street Station')
China Miéville
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Birthdate: September 6, 1972
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Norwich, England
 17 
Hilary Mantel
(Writer, Novelist, Essayist, Film critic, Poet lawyer, Literary critic)
Hilary Mantel
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Birthdate: July 6, 1952
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Glossop

British author Hilary Mantel initially studied law at LSU and then concentrated on her writing career after moving to Botswana with her geologist husband. Her Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, later catapulted her to fame. She divorced and remarried her husband later.

 18 
Nick Hornby
(Author & Editor)
Nick Hornby
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Birthdate: April 17, 1957
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Redhill

British author Nick Hornby is best known for his bestselling books Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, and About a Boy, all of which were later made into movies. A Cambridge alumnus, he had begun as a freelance journalist for publications such as GQ. He is also known for his music reviews.

 19 
Daniel Tammet
(Inspirational Author and Autistic Savant Known for His Memoir 'Born on a Blue Day')
Daniel Tammet
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Birthdate: January 31, 1979
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Barking, London, England

Daniel Tammet grew up having seizures and was later diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. A rare prodigious savant, he set a record by reciting the value of pi to 22,514 decimal places. He is best known for his memoir Born on a Blue Day and has also launched the language-learning site Optimnem.

 20 
Jean Rhys
(British Novelist Best Known for Her Novel 'Wide Sargasso Sea')
Jean Rhys
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Birthdate: August 24, 1890
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Roseau, Dominica
Died: May 14, 1979

Born in Dominica, to a Welsh father and a Creole mother, Jean Rhys grew up to be a celebrated author. She soared to fame with her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, which was inspired by the tale of Jane Eyre’s “madwoman in the attic.” She died before completing her memoir.

 21 
Maajid Nawaz
(Activist, Radio Presenter and Founding Chairman of the Think Tank 'Quilliam')
Maajid Nawaz
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Birthdate: November 2, 1977
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England

As a young boy, Maajid Nawaz had frequent clashes with the skinheads of Essex. Born in England, the SOAS and LSE alumnus had a 4-year stint in an Egyptian jail for his association with the Islamic extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. He now promotes secular Islam and has also advised David Cameron.

 22 
William Hazlitt
(English Writer & Literary Critic)
William Hazlitt
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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.

 23 
Harriet Martineau
(First female sociologist)
Harriet Martineau
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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.

 24 
Walter Bagehot
(Journalist, businessman, and essayist, who wrote extensively about government, economics, literature and race.)
Walter Bagehot
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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.

 25 
Joseph Conrad
(Known for Short Stories and Novels Like Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness and the Secret Agent)
Joseph Conrad
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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.

 26 
Leigh Hunt
(English Essayist, Poet & Critic)
Leigh Hunt
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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.

 27 
Edward Thomas
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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.

 28 
Walter Pater
(English Essayist, Literary Critic Famous for His Unique Style of Writings)
Walter Pater
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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.

 29 
James Wood
(Writer, Literary critic, University teacher)
James Wood
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Birthdate: November 1, 1965
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Durham, England

Harvard literary criticism professor and The New Yorker staff writer James Wood is known for his essay volumes such as The Broken Estate. He had started his career writing book reviews for The Guardian and slowly rose to be its chief literary critic. He was associated with The New Republic.

 30 
Elias Canetti
(Former author who received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1981)
Elias Canetti
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Birthdate: July 25, 1905
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ruse, Bulgaria
Died: August 14, 1994

Bulgarian-born author and Nobel laureate Elias Canetti interestingly became one of the greatest authors in German, his third language. Though equipped with a doctoral degree in chemistry, he gained fame for his iconic works such as The Tower of Babel and Crowds and Power, which focused on crowd psychology.

 31 
Lytton Strachey
(British Writer, a Founding Member of the 'Bloomsbury Group' and Author of 'Eminent Victorians')
Lytton Strachey
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Birthdate: March 1, 1880
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 21, 1932

English biographer Lytton Strachey is best remembered for his masterpiece Eminent Victorians, which looks at the lives of Victorian figures such as Florence Nightingale and Thomas Arnold, using tools such as irony and paradox. He had also penned an award-winning biography of Queen Victoria. His short biographies discarded irrelevant details.

 32 
Thomas De Quincey
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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.

 33 
Stephen Spender
(British Poet, Novelist and Essayist Whose Work Concentrated on Themes of Social Injustice and the Class Struggle)
Stephen Spender
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Birthdate: February 28, 1909
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kensington, London, England
Died: July 16, 1995

English poet and critic Stephen Spender mostly dealt with themes such as social issues and class struggle. He had also been an editor for Encounter and Horizon. He later taught at various institutes and also became the first non-American poetry consultant of the U.S. Library of Congress. He was knighted, too.

 34 
Hannah More
(Writer, Poet, Essayist)
Hannah More
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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.

 35 
Perry Anderson
(Intellectual, historian and essayist)
Perry Anderson
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Birthdate: September 11, 1938
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: London, England
 36 
Leslie Stephen
(British Author, Critic, Historian, Biographer, and Mountaineer)
Leslie Stephen
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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.

 37 
Timothy Garton Ash
(Journalist, Historian, Writer, Essayist)
Timothy Garton Ash
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Birthdate: July 12, 1955
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: London

Contemporary historian and Oxford professor Timothy Garton Ash dabbles in a variety of research interests, such as communism, free speech, and the EU’s dynamics with the rest of the world. He has penned works such as Facts Are Subversive and is a regular columnist at The Guardian.

 38 
Pico Iyer
(Essayist and Novelist Best Known for His Travel Writing)
Pico Iyer
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Birthdate: February 11, 1957
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Oxford, England

A descendant of Indian Gujarati author, Mahipatram Nilkanth, British-born author and travel writer Pico Iyer was educated at the prestigious Eton, Oxford, and Harvard. He is known for his contribution to Time magazine and for his bestselling travel-themed books such as The Open Road and The Art of Stillness.

 39 
Max Beerbohm
(English Essayist, Parodist and Caricaturist)
Max Beerbohm
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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.

 40 
Robert Faurisson
(British-born French academic who became best known for Holocaust denial.)
Robert Faurisson
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Birthdate: January 25, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Shepperton, England
Died: October 21, 2018

British-born Robert Faurisson was interested in classical languages since his early days and had taught French literature at the University of Lyon. He later gained notoriety as a chief Holocaust denier. He also raised questions on the authenticity of Holocaust victim Anne Frank’s memoir and was later banned from teaching.

 41 
Auberon Alexander Waugh
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Birthdate: November 17, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Dulverton, England
Died: January 16, 2001

Novelist Auberon Alexander Waugh was the second-born child and eldest son of author Evelyn Waugh. While working for the Royal Horse Guards in Cyprus, he almost died due to a gun accident. He had also worked for The Spectator and The Telegraph Group and gained fame for his Private Eye diaries.

 42 
Benjamin Jowett
(British Tutor and Theologian)
Benjamin Jowett
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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.

 43 
Al Alvarez
(Author of Many Non-Fiction Books)
Al Alvarez
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Birthdate: August 5, 1929
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 23, 2019

Best known for works such as The Savage God, which spoke about suicide, and the psychological thriller Day of Atonement, Al Alvarez was educated at Oxford and later became the youngest Christian Gauss lecturer at Princeton. His poems and other works carried themes of love and loss.

 44 
Keith Waterhouse
(British Novelist and Newspaper Columnist)
Keith Waterhouse
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Birthdate: February 6, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hunslet, Leeds, England
Died: September 4, 2009

English novelist and playwright, Keith Spencer Waterhouse is noted for his ability to create comedies even out of unpleasant situations. Leaving school at fifteen, he eventually became a columnist in established London papers like Punch and Daily Mirror. He earned international fame with his second novel, Billy Liar. He is also known for his campaigning against color bar and  against decline in the standards of modern English.

 45 
Charles Caleb Colton
(Known for His Eccentricities)
Charles Caleb Colton
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Birthdate: December 11, 1777
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: England
Died: April 28, 1832
 46 
Gilbert Murray
(British Author Best Known for His Verse Translations of Greek Drama)
Gilbert Murray
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Birthdate: January 2, 1866
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Sydney, Australia
Died: May 20, 1957

Gilbert Murray was an Australian-born British intellectual and scholar who specialized in the culture and language of Ancient Greece. A well-known humanist, Murray served as the president of Humanists UK from 1929 to 1930. Gilbert Murray also played an important role in the establishment of Oxfam as well as the Institute of World Affairs.

 47 
John Middleton Murry
(British Writer Best Known as the Editor of 'The Athenaeum (1919-21)' And 'The Adelphi (1923-48)')
John Middleton Murry
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Birthdate: August 6, 1889
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Peckham, London, England
Died: March 12, 1957

Author and essayist John Middleton Murry had penned countless essays and about 40 books in his lifetime. Better known as the husband of author Katherine Mansfield and a friend of D.H. Lawrence, he was inspired by both. He had also been an editor of Rhythm and had co-launched The Adelphi.

 48 
Lionel Johnson
(British Poet, Essayist, and Critic)
Lionel Johnson
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Birthdate: March 15, 1867
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Broadstairs, England
Died: October 4, 1902

Poet and critic Lionel Johnson was part of the 1890s’ tragic generation, with themes of decadence prevailing in his works. Best known for his study on Thomas Hardy, he was a closeted homosexual and was plagued by alcoholism. It is believed he died after falling and suffering a skull fracture.

 49 
Thomas Overbury
(British Poet and Essayist Known for Being the Victim of a Murder Which Led to a Scandalous Trial)
Thomas Overbury
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Birthdate: 1581 AD
Birthplace: Warwickshire, England
Died: September 14, 1613

Sir Thomas Overbury, English poet and essayist, is probably best known for his 1614 poem Wife, which describes the virtues one should demand of the woman he is going to marry. Interpreted as an indirect attack on Lady Essex, a divorcee whom his mentor, Viscount Rochester, was to marry, it led to his imprisonment and ultimate murder by slow poisoning.

 50 
Anna Laetitia Barbauld
(British Poet, Essayist, Literary Critic, Editor, and Author of Children’s Literature)
Anna Laetitia Barbauld
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Birthdate: June 20, 1743
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kibworth-Harcourt, 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.”

People may pass off essays as elaborate and extensive but ask reading aficionados and they would tell you that essays are the greatest pedigree of English literature – the real jewel in the crown. Essays are written to amuse, entertain and educate readers about a subject or an issue close to the heart of the essayists. Though they aren’t as much read as short stories, book lovers would confirm that no amount of reading can give a sense of gratification as an essay reading. Essays are mostly written in varying genres, right from comedy, fiction, history or current events. Furthermore, they may either be written as stand-alone pieces or grouped together in collections.
English literature has had a plethora of essayists who have only raised the standard of the language through their literary pieces. While Robert Burton and Sir Thomas Browne acted as torchbearers of the genre, the 19th century saw a proliferation of greatest like William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey. Interestingly, essayists used the power of the genre to express in varying themes, right from political confrontations to new movements in art and culture, light or fun-themed essays to literary criticisms. 20th century Britain saw the rise of greatest like TS Eliot, Virginia Woolfe and so on. Read this section to find in details about the life and works of famous Briton essayists.