Famous Briton Essayists

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.

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 Elizabeth Montagu

Elizabeth Montagu
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Famous As: Critic
Birthdate: October 2, 1718
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: British
Died: August 25, 1800

 2 Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: July 26, 1894
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: British, American
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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 3 Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 18, 1709
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: British
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.

 4 Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: 1960 AD
Nationality: Lebanese, British, American
Lebanese-American scholar and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb is known for his work on risk management through uncertainty and probability. His five-volume essay Incerto included his bestselling book The Black Swan. Named to Forbes’s Most Influential Management Gurus list, he is the co-editor-in-chief of the academic journal Risk and Decision Analysis.
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 5 D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: British
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.

 6 John Ruskin

John Ruskin
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Famous As: Art Critic and Painter
Birthdate: February 8, 1819
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: British
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 V. S. Naipaul

V. S. Naipaul
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 17, 1932
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: British
Died: August 11, 2018
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 8 Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British
Died: April 10, 1966

 9 E. M. Forster

E. M. Forster
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 1, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: British
Died: June 7, 1970

 10 Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith
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Famous As: Writer, Novelist, Essayist
Birthdate: October 25, 1975
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British

 11 Maajid Nawaz

Maajid Nawaz
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Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 2, 1977
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British

 12 Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel
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Famous As: Writer, Novelist, Essayist, Film critic, Poet lawyer, Literary critic
Birthdate: July 6, 1952
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: British

 13 Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby
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Famous As: Author & Editor
Birthdate: April 17, 1957
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: British

 14 Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 24, 1822
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: British
Died: April 15, 1888

 15 Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 31, 1979
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: British

 16 Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb
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Famous As: Writer & Essayist
Birthdate: February 10, 1775
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: British
Died: December 27, 1834

 17 Thomas Babington Macaulay

Thomas Babington Macaulay
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: October 25, 1800
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British
Died: December 28, 1859

 18 William Hazlitt

William Hazlitt
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Famous As: English Writer & Literary Critic
Birthdate: April 10, 1778
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: British
Died: September 18, 1830

 19 Joseph Addison

Joseph Addison
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Famous As: Essayist & Poet
Birthdate: May 1, 1672
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: British
Died: June 17, 1719

 20 Houston Stewart Chamberlain

Houston Stewart Chamberlain
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Famous As: Racial theorist, Writer, Politician, Philosopher, Essayist, Composer
Birthdate: September 9, 1855
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: German, British
Died: January 9, 1927

 21 Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau
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Famous As: Linguist, Journalist, Economist, Historian, Translator, Writer, Sociologist, Essayist, Feminist
Birthdate: June 12, 1802
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: British
Died: June 27, 1876

 22 Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 5, 1949
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: British

 23 Thomas De Quincey

Thomas De Quincey
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: August 15, 1785
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: British
Died: December 8, 1859

 24 Stephen Spender

Stephen Spender
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 28, 1909
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: British
Died: July 16, 1995

 25 Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: February 11, 1957
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: British

 26 Elias Canetti

Elias Canetti
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Famous As: Writer, Aphorist, Playwright, Chemist, Essayist
Birthdate: July 25, 1905
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: British
Died: August 14, 1994

 27 Walter Pater

Walter Pater
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: August 4, 1839
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: British
Died: July 30, 1894

 28 Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 3, 1878
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: British
Died: April 9, 1917

 29 Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt
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Famous As: English Essayist, Poet & Critic
Birthdate: October 19, 1784
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: British
Died: August 28, 1859

 30 James Wood

James Wood
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Famous As: Writer, Literary critic, University teacher
Birthdate: November 1, 1965
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British

 31 Hannah More

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

 32 Auberon Alexander Waugh

Auberon Alexander Waugh
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: November 17, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British
Died: January 16, 2001

 33 Timothy Garton Ash

Timothy Garton Ash
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Famous As: Journalist, Historian, Writer, Essayist
Birthdate: July 12, 1955
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: British

 34 Alan Garner

Alan Garner
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 17, 1934
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: British

 35 Max Beerbohm

Max Beerbohm
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: August 24, 1872
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: British
Died: May 20, 1956

 36 Anna Letitia Barbauld

Anna Letitia Barbauld
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: June 20, 1743
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: British
Died: March 9, 1825

 37 Benjamin Jowett

Benjamin Jowett
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Famous As: Tutor
Birthdate: April 15, 1817
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: British
Died: October 1, 1893

 38 Al Alvarez

Al Alvarez
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: August 5, 1929
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: British
Died: September 23, 2019

 39 Keith Waterhouse

Keith Waterhouse
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 6, 1929
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: British
Died: September 4, 2009

 40 A. C. Benson

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

 41 Lionel Johnson

Lionel Johnson
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 15, 1867
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: British
Died: October 4, 1902

 42 Vernon Lee

Vernon Lee
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 14, 1856
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: French, British
Died: February 13, 1935

 43 Thomas Overbury

Thomas Overbury
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: June 18, 1581
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: British
Died: September 14, 1613

 44 John Middleton Murry

John Middleton Murry
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 6, 1889
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: British
Died: March 12, 1957

 45 Thomas Heywood

Thomas Heywood
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Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: 1575 AD
Nationality: British
Died: August 16, 1641

 46 Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Guillermo Cabrera Infante
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Famous As: Linguist, Screenwriter, Translator, Essayist, Writer, Journalist
Birthdate: April 22, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: Cuban, Spanish, British
Died: February 21, 2005

 47 Michael Arlen

Michael Arlen
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: November 16, 1895
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: British, American
Died: June 23, 1956

 48 Frederic W. H. Myers

Frederic W. H. Myers
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: February 6, 1843
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: British
Died: January 17, 1901

 49 Simon Raven

Simon Arthur Noël Raven
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 28, 1927
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: British
Died: May 12, 2001

 50 Brigid Brophy

Brigid Brophy
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 12, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: British
Died: August 7, 1995
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.