Who are the Greatest English Writers of All Time?


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Chaucer (1345 ' 1400)

Before the late fourteenth century, written English was not considered to be a literary medium, but all that changed with Chaucer and his 'Canterbury Tales'. This collection of short stories can be described as the first English language 'best seller' and was widely acclaimed. Although the middle English in which he wrote is almost incomprehensible to modern readers, Chaucer is still regarded with awe by modern students of the English language. He is the first of the great English writers, and there were many more to come!

Shakespeare (1564 ' 1616)

The sixteenth century brought William Shakespeare with his prolific production of plays. No author before or since has been so acclaimed. Shakespeare wrote to entertain, and although his work is regarded as 'highbrow' his work was the equivalent of modern-day TV dramas or movies. He wrote about love, war, treachery and honour and his keen knowledge of human nature as well as his skill with words made his plays accessible and exciting for princes and paupers alike.

Many of the phrases he coined have entered into and remain part of the modern idiom: 'To be or not to be', 'Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune' and 'Lend me your ears' to name but a few.

John Milton (1608 ' 1674)

This author lived in times of political instability and civil upheaval, perhaps that is why he wrote 'Paradise Lost' the epic poem for which he will always be remembered by students of the English language. Like Shakespeare, he used his writing to reflect his political views, although not as subtly as Shakespeare did. His republicanism (at the time of Cromwell) was highly controversial in later years and led to some hostility. However, he is still considered to have created one of the most beautiful poems of all time with 'Paradise Lost'.

Sir Walter Scott (1771 ' 1832)

The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw another milestone in the development of English literature: Sir Walter Scott produced epic romantic poems such as 'The Lady of the Lake' as well as writing novels of romance, adventure and chivalry that still capture the imagination of modern readers. He is best remembered today for the exciting novel 'Ivanhoe' which has been produced as movie on more than one occasion. However, it was the 'Waverly' saga that initially brought him fame.

Rudyard Kipling (1865 ' 1936)

Rudyard Kipling enriched our store of literature with novels, short stories and poems. He is best known for his 'Just So' stories for children, and these are still told over and over again today. I'm sure everyone knows the story of the 'Elephant's Child' and how he got his long trunk! This author was born in Bombay and travelled widely throughout his life, bringing a flavour of 'exotic' places to readers in England. His novel about the adventures of Kim still makes for exciting reading today.

DH Lawrence (1885 ' 1930)

DH Lawrence, with his working-class background revolutionized the art of novel-writing. He took on themes that remain current today, such as the de-humanizing effects of industrialisation. He is best remembered for 'Sons and Lovers' and 'Lady Chatterly's Lover' both of which scandalized society with their unashamed treatment of sexual topics. Although both books dealt with deeply serious subjects, this caused the author to be widely discredited as a 'pornographer' and he was still widely vilified at the time of his death. This author was 'before his time' and his contribution to English literature is recognized and respected today.

JRR Tolkein (1892 -1973)

No list of great writers can fail to mention JRR Tolkein, an author who still inspires dreams of fantasy worlds, adventure and heroism in the hearts of young and old alike. Although Tolkein was by no means the first author to write about fantasy worlds, he was certainly, and still remains the greatest writer within this genre.

As a professor at Oxford, he wrote several textbooks on old English and carried out translations of epic poems such as 'Beowulf', but it is for his engaging and exciting Middle Earth fantasies that he will be remembered for hundreds of years to come.

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

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