The Great Essayists

Writer and philosopher AC Grayling explores key figures from the rich tradition of English essay writing.


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English nobleman Francis Bacon is considered to be the father of the English essay, and his work, first published at the end of the 16th century, has never been out of print since.


The essays of English parliamentarian Joseph Addison, born in 1672, are literary gems, showing an ease and lucidity of style combined with great wisdom on the subject of human virtue.


William Hazlitt was a journalist, critic and radical republican polemicist.

He is renowned for the power and beauty of his prose in essays, ranging from a description of Poussin's famous painting of Orion to an evocation of the atmosphere at a bare-knuckle fight on the Hungerford Downs.

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Matthew Arnold was known not only for his poetry, but also for his essays discussing new ideas about culture and values, and the dwindling significance of religion in the age of Darwin.