British literature: Wikis


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British literature refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, as well as to literature from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, prior to the formation of the UK.[1] By far the largest part of British literature is written in the English language, but there are bodies of written works in Latin, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Manx, Jèrriais, Guernésiais and other languages. Northern Ireland has a literary tradition in English, Ulster Scots and Irish. Irish writers have also played an important part in the development of English-language literature.

Literature in the Celtic languages of the islands is the oldest surviving vernacular literature in Europe. The Welsh literary tradition stretches from the 6th century to the 21st century. The oldest Welsh literature does not belong to the territory we know as Wales today, but rather to northern England and southern Scotland. But though it is dated to be from the 6th, 7th, and 8th centuries, it has survived only in 13th- and 14th century manuscript copies.


Latin literature

Chroniclers such as Bede, with his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, and Gildas, with his De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, were figures in the development of indigenous Latin literature, mostly ecclesiastical, in the centuries following the withdrawal of the Roman Empire. The Historia Brittonum composed in the 9th century is traditionally ascribed to Nennius. It is the earliest source which presents King Arthur as a historical figure, and is the source of several stories which were repeated and amplified by later authors.

Early Celtic literature

For a comparatively small country, Ireland has made a large contribution to world literature in all its branches. The Irish literature that is best known outside the country is in English, but the Irish language also has the most significant body of written literature, both ancient and recent, in any Celtic language, in addition to a strong oral tradition of legends and poetry.

The Ulster Cycle is a body of medieval Irish heroic legends and sagas of the traditional heroes of the Ulaid in what is now eastern Ulster and northern Leinster, particularly counties Armagh, Down and Louth. The stories are written in Old and Middle Irish, mostly in prose, interspersed with occasional verse passages. The language of the earliest stories is dateable to the 8th century, and events and characters are referred to in poems dating to the 7th.[2]

In Medieval Welsh literature the period before 1100 is known as the period of Y Cynfeirdd ("The earliest poets") or Yr Hengerdd ("The old poetry"). It roughly dates from the birth of the Welsh language until the arrival of the Normans in Wales towards the end of the 11th century.

The stories of the Mabinogion appear in either or both of two Medieval Welsh manuscripts, the White Book of Rhydderch (Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) written ca. 1350, and the Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest) written about 1382–1410, although texts or fragments of some of the tales have been preserved in earlier 13th century and later manuscripts. Scholars agree that the tales are older than the existing manuscripts, but disagree over just how much older.

Old English literature 450-1066

The earliest form of English literature developed after the settlement of the Saxons and other Germanic tribes in England after the withdrawal of the Romans and is known as Old English or Anglo-Saxon.

Cædmon is the earliest English poet whose name is known. Cædmon's only known surviving work is Cædmon's Hymn, probably dating from the late 7th century. The poem is one of the earliest attested examples of Old English and is, with the runic Ruthwell Cross and Franks Casket inscriptions, one of three candidates for the earliest attested example of Old English poetry. It is also one of the earliest recorded examples of sustained poetry in a Germanic language.

The epic poem Beowulf is the most famous work in Old English. A hero of the Geats, Beowulf battles three antagonists: Grendel, Grendel's mother, and a Dragon. The only surviving manuscript is the Nowell Codex. The precise date of the manuscript is debated, but most estimates place it close to the year 1000.

A popular poem of the time was The Dream of the Rood. It was inscribed upon the Ruthwell Cross.

Judith is a retelling of the story found in the Latin Bible's Book of Judith of the beheader of the Assyrian general Holofernes. Chronicles contained a range of historical and literary accounts; one notable example is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which contains various heroic poems inserted throughout.

Late medieval literature

Sir Bedivere casts King Arthur's sword Excalibur back to the Lady of the Lake. The Arthurian Cycle has influenced British literature across languages and down the centuries.

Latin literature circulated among the educated classes. Gerald of Wales's most distinguished works are those dealing with Wales and Ireland, with his late 12th century two books in Latin on his beloved Wales the most important: Itinerarium Cambriae and Descriptio Cambriae which tell us much about Welsh history and geography.

Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, the development of Anglo-Norman literature in the Anglo-Norman realm introduced literary trends from Continental Europe such as the chanson de geste. Religious literature, such as hagiographies enjoyed popularity. The Roman de Fergus was the earliest piece of non-Celtic vernacular literature to come from Scotland.

Matthew Paris wrote a number of works in the 13th century. Some were written in Latin, some in Anglo-Norman or French verse. His Chronica Majora is an oft-cited historical source.

While chroniclers such as William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon attempted to weave such historical information they had access to into coherent narratives, other writers took more creative approaches to their material.[3]

Geoffrey of Monmouth was one of the major figures in the development of British history and the popularity for the tales of King Arthur. He is best known for his chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) of 1136, which spread Celtic motifs to a wider audience, including accounts of Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, wizard Merlin, and sword Caliburnus (named as Excalibur in some manuscripts of Wace).

Wace, the earliest known Jersey poet, developed the Arthurian legend and chronicled the Dukes of Normandy

The 12th century Jersey poet Wace is considered the founder of Jersey literature and contributed to the development of the Arthurian legend in British literature. His Brut showed the interest of Norman patrons in the mythologising of the new English territories of the Anglo-Norman realm by building on Geoffrey of Monmouth's History, and introduced King Arthur's Round Table to literature. His Roman de Rou placed the Dukes of Normandy within an epic context.[4]

The Prophecy of Merlin is a 12th-century poem written in Latin hexameters by John of Cornwall, which he claimed was based or revived from a lost manuscript in the Cornish language. Marginal notes on Cornish vocabulary are among the earliest known writings in the Cornish language.[5]

At the end of the 12th century, Layamon's Brut adapted Wace to make the first English language work to discuss the legends of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It was also the first historiography written in English since the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Early English Jewish literature developed after the Norman Conquest with Jewish settlement in England. Berechiah ha-Nakdan is known chiefly as the author of a 13th century set of over a hundred fables, called Mishle Shualim, (Fox Fables), which are derived from both Berachyah's own inventions and some borrowed and reworked from Aesop's fables, the Talmud, and the Hindus [6]. The collection also contains fables conveying the same plots and morals as those of Marie de France. The development of Jewish literature in mediaeval England ended with the Edict of Expulsion of 1290.

In the later medieval period a new form of English now known as Middle English evolved. This is the earliest form which is comprehensible to modern readers and listeners, albeit not easily. Middle English Bible translations, notably Wyclif's Bible, helped to establish English as a literary language.

William Langland's Piers Plowman is considered by many critics to be one of the early great works of English literature along with Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (most likely by the Pearl Poet) during the Middle Ages. It is also the first allusion to a literary tradition of the legendary English archer, swordsman, and outlaw Robin Hood.

Geoffrey Chaucer, father of English literature

The most significant Middle English author was Geoffrey Chaucer who was active in the late 14th century. Often regarded as the father of English literature, Chaucer is widely credited as the first author to demonstrate the artistic legitimacy of the vernacular English language, rather than French or Latin. His main works were The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde.

The multilingual audience for literature in the 14th century can be illustrated by the example of John Gower, who wrote in Latin, Middle English and Anglo-Norman.

Women writers were also active, such as Marie de France in the 12th century and Julian of Norwich in the early 14th century.

Since at least the 14th century, poetry in English has been written in Ireland and by Irish writers abroad. The earliest poem in English by a Welsh poet dates from about 1470. Among the earliest Lowland Scots literature is Barbour's Brus (14th century). Whyntoun's Kronykil and Blind Harry's Wallace date from the (15th century). From the 13th century much literature based around the royal court in Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews was produced by writers such as Henrysoun, Dunbar, Douglas and Lyndsay.

In the Cornish language Passhyon agan Arloedh ("The Passion of our Lord"), a poem of 259 eight-line verses written in 1375, is one of the earliest surviving works of Cornish literature. The most important work of literature surviving from the Middle Cornish period is An Ordinale Kernewek ("The Cornish Ordinalia"), a 9000-line religious drama composed around the year 1400. The longest single surviving work of Cornish literature is Bywnans Meriasek (The Life of Meriasek), a play dated 1504, but probably copied from an earlier manuscript.

Le Morte d'Arthur, is Sir Thomas Malory's 15th century compilation of some French and English Arthurian romances, was among the earliest books printed in England, and was influential in the later revival of interest in the Arthurian legends.

Thomas More book Utopia, illustration of imaginary island, 1516

Sir Thomas More coined the word "utopia", a name he gave to the ideal, imaginary island nation whose political system he described in Utopia, written in Latin and published in 1516.

The landmark work in the reign of James IV of Scotland was Gavin Douglas's Eneados, the first complete translation of a major classical text in an Anglian language, finished in 1513. Its reception however was overshadowed by the Flodden defeat that same year, and the political instability that followed in the kingdom. Another major work, David Lyndsay's Ane Pleasant Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, later in the century, is a surviving example of a dramatic tradition in the period that has otherwise largely been lost. At the end of the 16th century, James VI of Scotland founded the Castalian Band, a group of makars and musicians in the court, based on the model of the Pléiade in France. The courtier and makar Alexander Montgomerie was a leading member. However this cultural centre was lost after the 1603 Union of the Crowns when James shifted his court to London. From 1603, London was the unrivalled cultural capital of the isles.

Early Modern English literature


Elizabethan and Jacobean eras

William Shakespeare's career straddled the change of Tudor and Stuart dynasties and encompassed English history and the emerging imperial idea of the 17th century

The sonnet form and other Italian literary influences arrived in English literature. The sonnet was introduced into English by Thomas Wyatt in the early 16th century.

In the later 16th century English poetry was characterised by elaboration of language and extensive allusion to classical myths. The most important poets of this period included Edmund Spenser and Sir Philip Sidney.

The most important literary achievements of the English Renaissance were in drama (see English Renaissance theatre). William Shakespeare, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, wrote over 35 plays in several genres, including tragedy, comedy and history. Other major playwrights of the time included Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe.

At the Reformation, the translation of liturgy and Bible into vernacular languages provided new literary models. The Book of Common Prayer and the Authorized King James Version of the Bible have been hugely influential. The King James Bible as one of the biggest translation projects in the history of English up to this time, was started in 1604 and completed in 1611.

John Milton, religious epic poem Paradise Lost published in 1667.

It represents the culmination of a tradition of Bible translation into English from the original languages that began with the work of William Tyndale (previous translations into English had relied on the Vulgate). It became the standard Bible of the Church of England, and some consider it one of the greatest literary works of all time. Sir Francis Bacon termed phrase "Knowledge is Power", his works are deemed so influential they're included in the Western canon

The prolific Jacobean playwright and poet Thomas Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy, is an early example of Illegitimacy in fiction.

Major poets of the 17th century included John Donne and other metaphysical poets. John Milton's religious epic Paradise Lost was first published in 1667. Another seminal work of Milton Areopagitica, is among history's most influential and impassioned philosophical defences of the principle of a right to freedom of speech, written in opposition to licensing and censorship, and is regarded as one of the most eloquent defenses of press freedom ever written.

1660 to 1800

Samuel Pepys, took the diary beyond mere business transaction notes, into the realm of the personal

The position of Poet Laureate was formalised during this period.

Diarists John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys depicted everyday London life and the cultural scene of the times. Their works are among the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period, and consists of eyewitness accounts of many great events, such as the Great Plague of London, and the Great Fire of London.

The publication of The Pilgrim's Progress in 1678, established the theologian John Bunyan as a notable writer.

A seminal book in piracy, A General History of the Pyrates 1724, was published in London, and contained biographies of several notorious English pirates such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack.[7]

The early 18th century is known as the Augustan Age of English literature. The poetry of the time was highly formal, as exemplified by the works of Alexander Pope.

Daniel Defoe 1719 castaway novel Robinson Crusoe, with Crusoe standing over Man Friday after freeing him from the cannibals

Although documented history of Irish theatre began at least as early as 1601, the earliest Irish dramatists of note were William Congreve, one of the most interesting writers of Restoration comedies, and Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, two of the most successful playwrights on the London stage in the 18th century.

The English novel developed during the 18th century, partly in response to an expansion of the middle-class reading public. One of the major early works in this genre was the seminal castaway novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. The 18th century novel tended to be loosely structured and semi-comic. Henry Fielding's Tom Jones is considered a comic masterpiece. Major novelists from the middle to late 18th century include; Laurence Sterne, Samuel Richardson, Samuel Johnson, and Tobias Smollett, who was a great infuence on Charles Dickens.[8]

Horace Walpole's 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, invented the Gothic fiction genre, that combines elements of horror and romance. The pioneering gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe introduced the brooding figure of the gothic villain which developed into the Byronic hero. Her most popular and influential work The Mysteries of Udolpho 1794, is often cited as the archetypal Gothic novel. Vathek 1786 by William Beckford, and The Monk 1796 by Matthew Lewis, were further notable early works in both the gothic and horror literary genres.

Although the epics of Celtic Ireland were written in prose and not verse, most people would probably consider that Irish fiction proper begins in the 18th century with the works of Jonathan Swift (especially Gulliver's Travels) and Oliver Goldsmith (The Vicar of Wakefield).

Non English-language literatures from the 16th century to the 19th century

Robert Burns inspired many vernacular writers across the Isles

As the Norman nobles of Scotland assimilated to indigenous culture they commissioned Scots versions of popular continental romances, for example: Launcelot o the Laik and The Buik o Alexander. In the early 16th century, Gavin Douglas produced a Scots translation of the Aeneid. Chaucerian, classical and French literary language continued to influence Scots literature up until the Reformation. The Complaynt of Scotland shows the interplay of language and ideas between the kingdoms of Scotland and England in the years leading up to the Union of the Crowns.

The earliest datable text in Manx (preserved in 18th century manuscripts), a poetic history of the Isle of Man from the introduction of Christianity, dates to the 16th century at the latest.

The first book to be printed in Welsh was published in 1546. From the Reformation until the 19th century most literature in the Welsh language was religious in character. Morgan Llwyd's Llyfr y Tri Aderyn ("The Book of the Three Birds") (1653) took the form of a dialogue between an eagle (representing secular authority, particularly Cromwell); a dove (representing the Puritans); and a raven (representing the Anglican establishment). John Ceiriog Hughes desired to restore simplicity of diction and emotional sincerity and do for Welsh poetry what Wordsworth and Coleridge did for English poetry.

The earliest surviving examples of Cornish prose are Pregothow Treger (The Tregear Homilies) a set of 66 sermons translated from English by John Tregear 1555–1557. Nicholas Boson (1624-1708) wrote three significant texts in Cornish, Nebbaz gerriau dro tho Carnoack (A Few Words about Cornish) between 1675 and 1708; Jowan Chy-an-Horth, py, An try foynt a skyans (John of Chyannor, or, The three points of wisdom), published by Edward Lhuyd in 1707, though written earlier; and The Dutchess of Cornwall's Progress, partly in English, now known only in fragments. The first two are the only known surviving Cornish prose texts from the 17th century. [9]

The Book of Common Prayer and Bible were translated into Manx in the 17th and 18th centuries. A tradition of carvals, religious songs or carols, developed. Religious literature was common, but secular writing much rarer. The first printed work in Manx dates from 1707: a translation of a Prayer Book catechism in English by Bishop Thomas Wilson.

In Scotland, after the 17th century, anglicisation increased, though Lowland Scots was still spoken by the vast majority of the population. At the time, many of the oral ballads from the borders and the North East were written down. Writers of the period include Robert Sempill (c.1595–1665), Lady Wardlaw and Lady Grizel Baillie.

In the Scots-speaking areas of Ulster there was traditionally a considerable demand for the work of Scottish poets, often in locally printed editions. Alexander Montgomerie's The Cherrie and the Slae in 1700, shortly over a decade later an edition of poems by Sir David Lindsay, nine printings of Allan Ramsay's The Gentle shepherd between 1743 and 1793, and an edition of Robert Burns' poetry in 1787, the same year as the Edinburgh edition, followed by reprints in 1789, 1793 and 1800. Among other Scottish poets published in Ulster were James Hogg and Robert Tannahill.

In the 18th century, Scottish writers such as Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott continued to use Lowland Scots. Scott introduced vernacular dialogue to his novels. The Habbie stanza was developed as a poetic form.

The first printed Jèrriais literature appears in the first newspapers following the introduction of the printing press at the end of the 18th century. The earliest identified dated example of printed poetry in Jèrriais is a fragment by Matchi L'Gé (Matthew Le Geyt 1777 – 1849) dated 1795.

Ulster Scots poetry, Robert Huddlestone (1814-1887) in paving, Writers' Square, Belfast

Some 60 to 70 volumes of Ulster rhyming weaver poetry were published between 1750 and 1850, the peak being in the decades 1810 to 1840. These weaver poets, such as James Orr, looked to Scotland for their cultural and literary models and were not simple imitators but clearly inheritors of the same literary tradition following the same poetic and orthographic practices; it is not always immediately possible to distinguish traditional Scots writing from Scotland and Ulster.

The importance of translation in spreading the influence of English literature to other cultures of the islands can be exemplified by the abridged Manx version of Paradise Lost by John Milton published in 1796 by Thomas Christian. The influence also went the other way as Romanticism discovered inspiration in the literatures and legends of the Celtic countries of the islands. The Ossian hoax typifies the growth of this interest.

George Métivier (1790–1881), Guernsey's "national poet"

Increased literacy in rural and outlying areas and wider access to publishing through, for example, local newspapers encouraged regional literary development as the 19th century progressed. Some writers in lesser-used languages and dialects of the islands gained a literary following outside their native regions, for example William Barnes in Dorset, George Métivier (1790–1881) in Guernsey and Robert Pipon Marett in Jersey. George Métivier published Rimes Guernesiaises, a collection of poems in Guernésiais and French in 1831 and Fantaisies Guernesiaises in 1866. Métivier's poems had first appeared in newspapers from 1813 onward, but he spent time in Scotland in his youth where he became familiar with the Scots literary tradition although he was also influenced by Occitan literature. The first printed anthology of Jèrriais poetry, Rimes Jersiaises, was published in 1865. Philippe Le Sueur Mourant's tales of Bram Bilo, an innocent abroad in Paris, were an immediate success in Jersey in 1889 and went through a number of reprintings. Denys Corbet published collections of poems Les Feuilles de la Forêt (1871) and Les Chànts du draïn rimeux (1884), and also brought out an annual poetry anthology 1874-1877, similar to Augustus Asplet Le Gros's annual in Jersey 1868-1875.[10]

Scots was used in the narrative by Ulster novelists such as W. G. Lyttle (1844–1896). Scots also regularly appeared in Ulster newspaper columns. Scottish authors; Robert Louis Stevenson, William Alexander, J. M. Barrie, and George MacDonald, also wrote in Lowland Scots or used it in dialogue.

Ewen MacLachlan translated the first eight books of Homer's Iliad into Scottish Gaelic. He also composed and published his own Gaelic Attempts in Verse (1807) and Metrical Effusions (1816), and contributed greatly to the 1828 Gaelic–English Dictionary.

The so-called "Cranken Rhyme" produced by John Davey of Boswednack, one of the last people with some traditional knowledge of the language,[11][12] may be the last piece of traditional Cornish literature. Later Cornish revivalists produced literary works: John Hobson Matthews wrote several poems, such as the patriotic "Can Wlascar Agam Mamvro" ("Patriotic Song of our Motherland"). Robert Morton Nance created a body of verse, such as "Nyns yu Marow Myghtern Arthur" ("King Arthur is not Dead").

The first major novelist in the Welsh language was Daniel Owen, author of works such as Rhys Lewis (1885) and Enoc Huws (1891). Edward Faragher (1831–1908) has been considered the last important native writer of Manx. He wrote poetry, reminiscences of his life as a fisherman, and translations of selected Aesop's Fables.

19th century English language literature

William Blake's "The Tyger," published in his Songs of Innocence and of Experience is a work of Romanticism


Major political and social changes at the end of the eighteenth century, particularly the French Revolution, prompted a new breed of writing known as Romanticism. William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge began the trend for bringing emotionalism and introspection to English literature, with a new concentration on the individual and the common man. The reaction to urbanism and industrialisation prompted poets to explore nature, for example the Lake Poets. The third major Lake poet Robert Southey, his verse endures lasting popularity, but perhaps his most enduring contribution to literary history is the immortal children's classic, The Story of the Three Bears, the original Goldilocks story.

Around the same period, the iconoclastic printer William Blake, largely disconnected from the major streams of elite literature of the time, was constructing his own highly idiosyncratic poetic creations, while the Scottish nationalist poet Robert Burns was collecting and adapting the folk songs of Scotland into a body of national poetry for his homeland.

The major "second generation" Romantic poets included George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron. They flouted social convention and often used poetry as a political voice. Amongst Lord Byron's best-known works are the brief poems She Walks in Beauty, When We Two Parted, and So, we'll go no more a roving, in addition to narrative poems Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan. Another key poet of the Romantic movement John Keats, his poems such as Ode to a Nightingale, which expound on his aesthetic theory of negative capability, are among the most celebrated by any writer. To Autumn is the final work in a collection of poems known as "Keats's 1819 odes". Percy Shelley famous for his association with Keats and Byron, was the third major romantic poet of the second generation. Critically regarded among the finest lyric poets in the English language, Shelley is most famous for such classic anthology verse works as Ozymandias, and long visionary poems which include Prometheus Unbound.

The 19th century novel

At the same time, Jane Austen was writing highly polished novels about the life of the landed gentry, seen from a woman's point of view, and wryly focused on practical social issues, especially marriage and money. Austen's Pride and Prejudice 1813, is often considered the epitome of the romance genre, and some of her other most notable works include; Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Persuasion and Emma

Walter Scott's novel-writing career was launched in 1814 with Waverley, often called the first historical novel, and was followed by Ivanhoe. His popularity in England and further abroad did much to form the modern stereotype of Scottish culture. Other novels by Scott which contributed to the image of him as a Scottish patriot include Rob Roy. Scott was the highest earning and most popular author up to that time.

Mary Shelley is best known for her novel Frankenstein 1818, infusing elements of the Gothic novel and Romantic movement. Frankenstein's chilling tale suggests modern organ transplants, tissue regeneration, that remind readers of the moral issues raised by today's medicine.

John William Polidori wrote The Vampyre 1819, creating the literary vampire genre. His short story was inspired by the life of Lord Byron and his poem The Giaour. Another major influence on vampire fiction is Varney the Vampire 1845, where many standard Vampire features originated — Varney has fangs, leaves two puncture wounds on the neck of his victims, has hypnotic powers, superhuman strength, and also the first example of the "sympathetic vampire", who loathes his condition but is a slave to it.[13]

From the mid-1820s to 1840s, fashionable novels depicting the lives of the upper class in a manner that was indiscreet, identifying the real people whom the characters were based, dominated the market. The 1830's saw a resurgence of the social novel, where sensationalized accounts and stories of the working class poor were directed toward middle class audiences to help incite sympathy and action towards pushing for legal and moral changes. An early practictioner was Elizabeth Gaskell, whose most notable work North and South contrasts the lifestyle in the industrial north of England with the wealthier south.

Charles Dickens emerged on the literary scene in the 1830s, confirming the trend for serial publication. Dickens wrote vividly about London life and struggles of the poor, Oliver Twist, but in a good-humoured fashion, accessible to readers of all classes. The festive tale A Christmas Carol he called his "little Christmas book". Great Expectations is a quest for maturity. A Tale of Two Cities is set in London and Paris. Dickens early works are masterpieces of comedy, such as The Pickwick Papers. Later his works became darker, without losing his genius for caricature.

It was in the Victorian era (1837–1901) that the novel became the leading form of literature in English. Most writers were now more concerned to meet the tastes of a large middle-class reading public than to please aristocratic patrons. The best known works of the era include the emotionally powerful works of the Brontë sisters: Charlotte's Jane Eyre, Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey were released in 1847 after their search to secure publishers, William Makepeace Thackeray's satire of British society Vanity Fair 1847, Anthony Trollope's insightful portrayals of the lives of the landowning and professional classes of early Victorian England. Sir John Barrow's descriptive 1831 account of the Mutiny on the Bounty, ensured the enduring fame of the Royal Navy ship HMS Bounty and her people. The legend of Dick Turpin was popularized when the English highwayman's exploits appeared in the novel Rookwood 1834. Although pre-dated by John Ruskin's The King of the Golden River in 1841, the history of the modern fantasy genre is generally said to begin with George MacDonald, influential author of The Princess and the Goblin and Phantastes 1858. Another major fantasy writer William Morris, was a popular English poet who wrote several novels during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Literature for children was published during the Victorian period, some of which has become globally well-known, such as the works of Lewis Carroll, notably with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Anna Sewell wrote the classic animal novel Black Beauty. At the end of the Victorian era, Beatrix Potter was best known for her children’s books featuring animals, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Wilkie Collins epistolary novel The Moonstone 1868, is generally considered the first detective novel in the English language. The Woman in White is regarded as one of the finest sensation novels.

The novels of George Eliot, such as Middlemarch, were a milestone of literary realism, and are frequently held in the highest regard for their combination of high Victorian literary detail combined with an intellectual breadth that removes them from the narrow confines they often depict. An interest in rural matters and the changing social and economic situation of the countryside, is seen in the novels of Thomas Hardy and others.

Penny dreadful publications were an alternative to mainstream works, and were aimed at working class adolescents, introducing the infamous Sweeney Todd. The premier ghost story writer of the nineteenth century was Sheridan Le Fanu. His works include the macabre mystery novel Uncle Silas 1865, and his Gothic novella Carmilla 1872, tells the story of a young woman's susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire.

Bram Stoker, author of seminal horror work Dracula, featured as its primary antagonist the vampire Count Dracula, with the vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing his arch-enemy. Dracula has been attributed to a number of literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, gothic novel and invasion literature.

H. G. Wells, who alongside Jules Verne is referred to as "The Father of Science Fiction", invented a number of themes that are now classic in the science fiction genre. The War of the Worlds 1898, describing an invasion of late Victorian England by Martians using tripod fighting machines equipped with advanced weaponry, is a seminal depiction of an alien invasion of Earth. The Time Machine is generally credited with the popularization of the concept of time travel using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively. The term "time machine" coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, a brilliant London-based "consulting detective". Holmes archenemy Professor Moriarty, is widely considered to be the first true example of a supervillain. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories featuring Holmes, from 1880 up to 1907, with a final case in 1914. All but four Conan Doyle stories are narrated by Holmes' friend, assistant, and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson.

Henry Rider Haggard wrote the genesis of the Lost World literary genre King Solomon's Mines in 1885. F. Anstey's comic novel Vice Versa 1882, sees a father and son magically switch bodies and get a taste of each others' lives. Satirist Jerome K. Jerome wrote the comic novel Three Men in a Boat 1889, a humorous account of a boating holiday on the Thames, to overwhelming success. George & Weedon Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody 1892, is also considered a classic work of humour.

Anthony Hope wrote the adventure novels The Prisoner of Zenda 1894, and Rupert of Hentzau, 1898. An important forerunner of modernist literature Joseph Conrad, wrote the novel Heart of Darkness 1899, a symbolic story within a story or frame narrative, about an Englishman Marlow's foreign assignment, that is widely regarded as a significant work of English literature and part of the Western canon.

Victorian poets

Leading poetic figures of Victorian era include; Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, Robert Browning (and his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning), and Matthew Arnold, whilst multi-disciplinary talents such as John Ruskin and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were also famous for their poetry. The poetry of this period was heavily influenced by the Romantics, but also went off in its own directions. Particularly notable was the development of the dramatic monologue, a form used by many poets in this period, but perfected by Browning, most of his poems were in the form of dramatic monologues.

Nonsense verse, such as by Edward Lear, taken with the work of Lewis Carroll, is regarded as a precursor of surrealism.

Towards the end of the century, English poets began to take an interest in French Symbolism and Victorian poetry entered a decadent fin-de-siècle phase. Two groups of poets emerged, the Yellow Book poets who adhered to the tenets of Aestheticism, including Algernon Charles Swinburne, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Symons and the Rhymer's Club group that included Ernest Dowson, Lionel Johnson and William Butler Yeats. Poetry of A. E. Housman consisted of wistful evocation of doomed youth in the English countryside, grew in popularity early 20th century.


In the 19th century, the Irish playwright Dion Boucicault was an extremely popular writer of comedies. However, it was in the last decade of the century that the Irish theatre finally came of age with the emergence of George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. All of these writers lived mainly in England and wrote in English, with the exception of some works in French by Wilde.

The Celtic Revival (c. 1890), was begun by William Butler Yeats, Augusta, Lady Gregory, John Millington Synge, Seán O'Casey, James Joyce and others. The Revival stimulated new appreciation of traditional Irish literature. The movement also encouraged the creation of works written in the spirit of Irish culture, as distinct from British culture.


Anglo-Welsh literature is a term used to describe works written in the English language by Welsh writers, notably Dylan Thomas, especially if they either have subject matter relating to Wales or (as in the case of Anglo-Welsh poetry in particular) are influenced by the Welsh language in terms of patterns of usage or syntax. It has been recognized as a distinctive entity only since the 20th century. The need for a separate identity for this kind of writing arose because of the parallel development of modern Welsh literature, ie. literature in the Welsh language.


Scottish literature in the 19th century, following the example of Walter Scott, tended to produce novels that did not reflect the realities of life in that period.

Robert Louis Stevenson's short novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 1886, depicts the dual personality of a kind and intelligent physician who turns into a psychopathic monster after imbibing a drug intended to separate good from evil in a personality. His Kidnapped is a fast-paced historical novel set in the aftermath of the '45 Jacobite Rising, and Treasure Island 1883, is the classic pirate adventure.

The Kailyard school of Scottish writers presented an idealised version of society and brought elements of fantasy and folklore back into fashion. J. M. Barrie created Peter Pan, a boy who can fly, magically refuses to grow up, in a never-ending childhood on Neverland, is one example of this mix of modernity and nostalgia.

English language literature since 1900

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Scotland of Irish parents, but his Sherlock Holmes stories have typified a fog-filled London for readers worldwide

The major lyric poet of the first decades of the 20th century was Thomas Hardy. Following the classic novels Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd, Hardy then concentrated on poetry after the harsh response to his last novel, Jude the Obscure.

The most widely popular writer of the early years of the 20th century was arguably Rudyard Kipling, a highly versatile writer of novels, short stories and poems, notably The Jungle Book, often based on his experiences in British India. Kipling's inspirational poem If— is a national favourite. Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands 1903, defined the spy novel. The Scarlet Pimpernel 1905, by Emma Orczy, is a precursor to the "disguised superhero". Kenneth Grahame wrote the children's classic The Wind in the Willows in 1908. John Buchan penned the adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps 1915. The medieval scholar M. R. James published highly regarded ghost stories in contemporary settings. G. K. Chesterton was a prolific and hugely influential writer with a diverse output.

From around 1910, the Modernist Movement began to influence English literature. While their Victorian predecessors had usually been happy to cater to mainstream middle-class taste, 20th century writers such as James Joyce often felt alienated from it, so responded by writing more intellectually challenging works or by pushing the boundaries of acceptable content.

Major poets of this period in Britain included the American-born T. S. Eliot and Irishman W. B. Yeats. Free verse and other stylistic innovations came to the forefront in this era.

The experiences of the First World War were reflected in the work of war poets such as Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Isaac Rosenberg, Edmund Blunden and Siegfried Sassoon. Following the Arab Revolt, T. E. Lawrence "Lawrence of Arabia" wrote his autobiographical account in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Important novelists between the two World Wars include Irish writer James Joyce, alongside English authors D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, C. S. Forester and P. G. Wodehouse

Joyce's complex works included Ulysses, arguably the most important work of Modernist literature, that is referred to as "a demonstration and summation of the entire movement".[14] It is an interpretation of the Odyssey set in Dublin, and culminates in Finnegans Wake.

D. H. Lawrence wrote with understanding about the social life of the lower and middle classes, and the personal life of those who could not adapt to the social norms of his time. Sons and Lovers 1913, is widely regarded as his earliest masterpiece. There followed The Rainbow 1915, and its sequel Women in Love 1920. Lawrence attempted to explore human emotions more deeply than his contemporaries and challenged the boundaries of the acceptable treatment of sexual issues, most notably in Lady Chatterley's Lover 1928.

Virginia Woolf was an influential feminist, and a major stylistic innovator associated with the stream-of-consciousness technique. Her novels included Mrs Dalloway 1925, To the Lighthouse 1927, Orlando 1928, The Waves 1931, and A Room of One's Own 1929, that contains her famous dictum; "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction".[15]

E. M. Forster's A Passage to India 1924, reflected challenges to imperialism, while his earlier works such as A Room with a View and Howards End, examined Edwardian society in England. Robert Graves is best known for his 1934 novel I Claudius.

Novelists who wrote in a more traditional style, such as Nobel Prize laureate John Galsworthy, whose novels include The Forsyte Saga, and Arnold Bennett, author of The Old Wives' Tale, continued to receive great acclaim in the interwar period. At the same time the Georgian poets maintained a more conservative approach to poetry by combining romanticism, sentimentality and hedonism, sandwiched between the Victorian era, with its strict classicism, and Modernism, with its strident rejection of pure aestheticism.

Aldous Huxley's futuristic novel Brave New World 1932, anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embodiment of the ideals that form the basis of futurism. Daphne Du Maurier wrote Rebecca, a mystery novel, in 1938. The most notable work of W. Somerset Maugham is Of Human Bondage, that is strongly autobiographical and is generally agreed to be his masterpiece. Novelist A. J. Cronin often drew on his experiences practising medicine. The Citadel 1937, was groundbreaking with its treatment of the contentious theme of medical ethics, and is credited with laying a foundation for the introduction of the NHS in the UK a decade later. Evelyn Waugh satirised the "bright young things" of the 1920s and 1930s, such as in A Handful of Dust 1934, while his magnus opus Brideshead Revisited 1945, deals with theology.

Classics of children's literature consisted of A A Milne's collection of books about a fictional bear he named Winnie-the-Pooh, novelist Enid Blyton's chronicled the adventures of a group of young children and their dog in The Famous Five, and Mary Norton wrote about tiny people who borrow from humans, The Borrowers. Inspiration for Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, was the Great Maytham Hall Garden in Kent. T. H. White wrote the Arthurian fantasy The Once and Future King, the first part being The Sword in the Stone 1938. Hugh Lofting created the character Doctor Dolittle, about a man who learns to talk to animals, while novelist Dodie Smith wrote The Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Agatha Christie was a crime writer of novels, short stories and plays, best remembered for her 80 detective novels and her successful West End theatre plays. Her works, particularly featuring detectives Hercule Poirot or Miss Jane Marple, have given her the title the 'Queen of Crime' and made her one of the most important and innovative writers in the development of the genre. Christie's novels include, Murder on the Orient Express 1934, Death on the Nile 1937, and And Then There Were None 1939. Another popular writer during the Golden Age of detective fiction was Dorothy L. Sayers. The novelist Georgette Heyer created the historical romance genre.

The Auden Group, sometimes called simply the Thirties poets, was a group of British and Irish writers active in the 1930s that included; W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, Cecil Day-Lewis, Stephen Spender, Christopher Isherwood, and sometimes Edward Upward and Rex Warner.

One of the most significant English writers of this period was George Orwell. An essayist and novelist, Orwell's works are considered among the most important social and political commentaries of the 20th century. Dealing with issues such as poverty in The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London, totalitarianism in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, and colonialism in Burmese Days. Orwell's works were often semi-autobiographical and in the case of Homage to Catalonia, wholly. Malcolm Lowry is best known for Under the Volcano

From the early 1930's to late 1940's, an informal literary discussion group associated with the English faculty at the University of Oxford, were the "Inklings". Its leading members were the major fantasy novelists; C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Lewis is known for his fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters 1942, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy, while Tolkien is best known as the author of the The Hobbit 1937, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

Kitchen sink realism (or kitchen sink drama) is a term coined to describe a British cultural movement which developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s in theatre, art (the term itself derives from an expressionist painting by John Bratby), novels, film and television plays, whose 'heroes' usually could be described as angry young men. It used a style of social realism which often depicted the domestic situations of working class Britons to explore social issues and political controversies. In drama of the post war period, the drawing room plays typical of dramatists like Terence Rattigan or Noel Coward were challenged in the 1950s by the Angry Young Men, exemplified by John Osborne's iconic play Look Back in Anger. Arnold Wesker and Nell Dunn also brought social concerns to the stage.

In thriller writing, Ian Fleming created the character James Bond 007 in January 1952, while on holiday at his Jamaican estate, Goldeneye. Fleming chronicled Bond's adventures in twelve novels, such as Casino Royale 1953, Live and Let Die 1954, Dr. No 1958, Goldfinger 1959, Thunderball 1961, and nine short story works. In contrast to the larger-than-life spy capers of Bond, John le Carré was an author of spy novels who depicted a shadowy world of espionage and counter-espionage, and his best known novel The Spy Who Came in from the Cold 1963, is often regarded as one of the greatest in the genre. Frederick Forsyth writes thriller novels, including The Day of the Jackal 1971, The Odessa File 1972, and The Dogs of War 1974. Ken Follet writes spy thrillers, his first success being Eye of the Needle 1978, and historical novels, notably The Pillars of the Earth 1989, and its sequel World Without End 2007.

Graham Greene's works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Notable for an ability to combine serious literary acclaim with broad popularity, his works include four Catholic novels, Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair.

The leading poets of the middle and later 20th century included the traditionalist John Betjeman, Philip Larkin, Ted Hughes and the Northern Irish Catholic Seamus Heaney, who lived in the Republic of Ireland for much of his later life. In the 1960s and 1970s, Martian poetry aimed to break the grip of 'the familiar', by describing ordinary things in unfamiliar ways, as though, for example, through the eyes of a Martian. This drive to make the familiar strange was carried into fiction by Martin Amis.

The British Poetry Revival was a wide-reaching collection of groupings and subgroupings that embraces performance, sound and concrete poetry. Leading poets associated with this movement include J. H. Prynne, Eric Mottram, Tom Raworth, Denise Riley and Lee Harwood. The Mersey Beat poets were Adrian Henri, Brian Patten and Roger McGough. Their work was a self-conscious attempt at creating an English equivalent to the Beats. Many of their poems were written in protest against the established social order and, particularly, the threat of nuclear war.

Nobel Prize laureate William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies in 1954, that discusses how culture created by man fails, and uses as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, but with disastrous results.

The dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange 1962 by Anthony Burgess, displays the prevention of the main character's exercise of his free will through the use of a classical conditioning technique. Burgess creates a new speech in his novel that is the teenage slang of the not-too-distant future.

In crime fiction, murder mysteries of Ruth Rendell and P. D. James are popular. Anthony Powell wrote the twelve-volume cycle of novels A Dance to the Music of Time, that is a often comic examination of movements and manners, power and passivity in English political, cultural and military life in the mid 20th century.

War novels include Alistair MacLean thriller's The Guns of Navarone 1957, Where Eagles Dare 1968, and Jack Higgins' The Eagle Has Landed 1975. Patrick O'Brian is best known for his nautical historical novels, the Aubrey–Maturin series featuring the Royal Navy, with the first novel in the series being Master and Commander 1969.

Comic novelist Kingsley Amis is best known for his academic satire Lucky Jim 1954. John Wyndham wrote post-apocalyptic science fiction, with his most notable works being The Day of the Triffids 1951, and The Midwich Cuckoos 1957. Iris Murdoch's novels dealt with sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious, as displayed in Under the Net 1954. George Langelaan's The Fly 1957, is a science fiction short story, while Peter George's Red Alert 1958, is a Cold War thriller. Mervyn Peake wrote the Gormenghast series, a trilogy based in Gormenghast castle. Muriel Spark's most notable work is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 1961, with John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman 1969.

Roald Dahl rose to prominence with his children's fantasy novels, often inspired from experiences from his childhood, that are notable for their often unexpected endings, and unsentimental, dark humour. Dahl was inspired to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 1964, featuring the eccentric candymaker Willy Wonka, having grown up near two chocolate makers in England who often tried to steal trade secrets by sending spies into the other's factory. His other works include, James and the Giant Peach 1961, Fantastic Mr. Fox 1971, The Witches 1983, and Matilda 1988.

Nigel Tranter wrote historical novels of celebrated Scottish warriors; Robert the Bruce in the The Bruce Trilogy, and William Wallace in The Wallace 1975, works acclaimed for their accuracy.

Angela Carter's magical realism novels include, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman 1972, and Nights at the Circus 1984.

Science fiction novelist Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, is based on his various short stories, particularly The Sentinel. His other major novels include Rendezvous with Rama 1972, and The Fountains of Paradise 1979. Brian Aldiss is Clarke's contemporary.

Richard Adams wrote the heroic fantasy Watership Down in 1972. Evoking epic themes, it recounts a group of rabbits' odyssey, who are anthropomorphised, as they escape destruction of their warren to seek a place in which to establish a new home.

Salman Rushdie achieved notability with Midnight's Children 1981, that was awarded both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and Booker prize later that year, and was subsequently named Booker of Bookers in 1993. His most controversial novel The Satanic Verses 1989, was inspired in part by the life of Muhammad. Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising, is a five-volume fantasy saga set in and around England and Wales. Prolific children's author Dick King-Smith's works include The Sheep-Pig 1984, and The Water Horse 1990. Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul is known for A Bend in the River.

Terry Pratchett is best known for his Discworld series of comic fantasy novels, that begins with The Colour of Magic 1983, and includes Mort 1987, Hogfather 1996, and Night Watch 2002. Pratchett's other most notable work is the 1990 novel Good Omens. Douglas Adams wrote the five-volume science fiction comedy series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and also wrote the humorous fantasy detective novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

Clive Barker horror novels include The Hellbound Heart 1986, and works in fantasy, Weaveworld 1987, Imajica and Abarat 2002.

J. G. Ballard's autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun 1984, is based on his boyhood experiences in a Shanghai internment camp.

Kazuo Ishiguro wrote historical novels in the first-person narrative style, whose works include, The Remains of the Day 1989, Never Let Me Go 2005. A.S. Byatt is best known for Possession 1990, with Sebastian Faulks Birdsong 1993, and Louis de Bernières Captain Corelli's Mandolin 1993. Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting 1993, gives a brutal depiction of Edinburgh life.

Science fiction novelist Iain M. Banks created a fictional anarchist, socialist, and utopian society the Culture, and novels that feature in it include Excession 1996, and Inversions 1998. Nick Hornby's works include High Fidelity 1995, and About a Boy 1998, with Nicholas Evans The Horse Whisperer 1995.

Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary 1996, and its sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 1999, chronicle the life of Bridget Jones, a thirtysomething single woman in London. Alex Garland's works include The Beach 1996, Giles Foden wrote the Last King of Scotland 1998, and Joanne Harris's most notable work is Chocolat 1999. Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, begins with Stormbreaker 2000.

Philip Pullman is best known for the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, that comprises of Northern Lights 1995, The Subtle Knife 1997, and The Amber Spyglass 2000. It is a coming-of-age story with many epic events. Neil Gaiman is an esteemed writer of science fiction, fantasy short stories and novels, whose notable works include Stardust 1998, Coraline 2002, The Graveyard Book 2009, and The Sandman series. Alan Moore's works include Watchmen, V for Vendetta set in a dystopian future UK, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and From Hell, speculating on the identity and motives of Jack the Ripper.

Ian McEwan's Atonement 2001, refers to the process of forgiving or pardoning a transgression, and alludes to the main characters' search for atonement in interwar England. His 2005 novel Saturday, follows an especially eventful day in the life of a successful neurosurgeon.

Zadie Smith's Whitbread Book Award winning novel White Teeth 2000, mixes pathos and humour, and focuses on the later lives of two wartime friends in London. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time 2003 by Mark Haddon, is written in the first-person perspective of a 15-year-old boy with autism living in Wiltshire. The first novel from Susanna Clarke is the historical fantasy Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell 2004. Works of the 2007 Nobel Prize recipient Doris Lessing include, The Grass is Singing, and The Golden Notebook.

J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter fantasy series, is a collection of seven fantasy novels that chronicle the adventures of the adolescent wizard Harry Potter, the idea for which Rowling conceived whilst she was on a train trip from Manchester to London in 1990. The series begins with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 1997, and ends with the seventh and final book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2007.

In the 1950s, the bleak absurdist play Waiting for Godot, by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett profoundly affected British drama. The Theatre of the Absurd influenced playwrights of the later decades of the 20th century, including Harold Pinter, whose works are often characterized by menace or claustrophobia, and Tom Stoppard. Stoppard's works are however also notable for their high-spirited wit and the great range of intellectual issues which he tackles in different plays. Michael Frayn is among other playwrights noted for their use of language and ideas.

Formerly an appointment for life, the appointment of the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom is now made for a fixed term of 10 years, starting with Andrew Motion in 1999 as successor to Ted Hughes.[16] Carol Ann Duffy succeeded Motion in the post in May 2009.[17] A position of national laureate, entitled The Scots Makar, was established in 2004 by the Scottish Parliament. The first appointment was made directly by the Parliament in that year when Edwin Morgan received the honour[18][19] The post of National Poet of Wales (Welsh: Bardd Cenedlaethol Cymru) was established in May 2005[20]. The post is an annual appointment with the language of the poet alternating between English and Welsh.

Non English language literatures since 1900

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Welsh literature began to reflect the way the Welsh language was increasingly becoming a political symbol. Two important literary nationalists were Saunders Lewis and Kate Roberts. Islwyn Ffowc Elis was a popular novelist in Welsh (also a winner of the crown at the 1947 National Eisteddfod), who produced novels in a range of genres new to Welsh literature, such as science fiction in Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd and Y Blaned Dirion. Contemporary novelists in Welsh include Mihangel Morgan and Fflur Dafydd.

With the revival of Cornish there have been newer works written in the language. In the first half of the 20th century poetry was the focus of literary production, A. S. D. Smith's epic poem Trystan hag Isolt reworked the Tristan and Iseult legend. Peggy Pollard's 1941 play Beunans Alysaryn was modelled on the 16th-century saints' plays.

In the early 20th century in Scotland, a renaissance in the use of Lowland Scots occurred, its most vocal figure being Hugh MacDiarmid. Other contemporaries were Douglas Young, Sidney Goodsir Smith, Robert Garioch and Robert McLellan. The revival produced verse and other literature, including the plays for which Robert McLellan is best known.[21]

The end of the First World War saw a decline in the quantity of poetry published in Jèrriais and Guernésiais in favour of short-story-like newspaper columns in prose, some being collected in book or booklet form – this being a common genre in the Norman mainland. For example, a collection of Thomas Henry Mahy's Dires et Pensées du Courtil Poussin, was published in 1922. The imported eisteddfod tradition in the Channel Islands encouraged recitation and performance, a tradition that continues today. The German military occupation of the Channel Islands 1940–1945 encouraged increased use of the vernacular languages among those who remained, but the German censorship permitted little original writing to be published. Within the restrictions, Les Chroniques de Jersey, the only surviving French language newspaper in the Islands, republished considerable quantities of older Jèrriais literature for purposes of morale and the assertion of identity. The post-Liberation social changes meant, however, that vernacular literature has never regained the situation it had enjoyed previously.

Christopher Whyte (Crisdean MhicIlleBhain) is a Scottish Gaelic poet, who won in 2002 a Saltire Society Research Book of the Year award for his edition of Sorley Maclean's Dàin do Eimhir

Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna was a Scottish Gaelic poet who served in the First World War, and as a war poet described the use of poison gas in his poem Òran a' Phuinnsuin ("Song of the Poison"). His poetry is part of oral literature, as he himself never learnt to read and write in his native language. As part of the Scottish Gaelic Renaissance, Sorley MacLean's work in Scottish Gaelic in the 1930s gave new value to modern literature in that language. Iain Crichton Smith was more prolific in English but also produced much Gaelic poetry and prose, and also translated some of the work of Sorley Maclean from Gaelic to English, as well as some of his own poems originally composed in Gaelic. Much of his English language work was related to, or translated from, Gaelic equivalents. Contemporary writers in Scottish Gaelic include Aonghas MacNeacail, and Angus Peter Campbell who, besides two Scottish Gaelic poetry collections, has produced two Gaelic novels: An Oidhche Mus Do Sheol Sinn (2003) and Là a' Deanamh Sgeil Do Là (2004).

Highly anglicised Lowland Scots is often used in contemporary Scottish fiction, for example, the Edinburgh dialect of Lowland Scots in Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. But'n'Ben A-Go-Go is a 2000 cyberpunk novel entirely in Scots by Matthew Fitt, notable for using as many of the different varieties of Scots as possible, including many neologisms - imagining how Scots might develop by 2090. In Northern Ireland, James Fenton's poetry, at times lively, contented, whistful, is written in contemporary Ulster-Scots.

There is some production of modern literature in Irish in Northern Ireland.

In contemporary Cornish poetry, Tony Snell's work is heavily influenced by the early poetry of Wales and Brittany, and it was he who adapted the Welsh traethodl to Cornish. The bard Pol Hodge is another example of a poet writing in Cornish. A few novels have been published in Cornish since the last decades of the 20th century, including Melville Bennetto's An Gurun Wosek a Geltya (The Bloody Crown of the Celtic Countries) in 1984; subsequently Michael Palmer published Jory (1989) and Dyroans (1998).[22]

Since the 1970s a number of books of Jèrriais literature have been published, including two collections of writings by George F. Le Feuvre: Jèrri Jadis and Histouaithes et Gens d'Jèrri.[23]

A collection of short stories P'tites Lures Guernésiaises (in Guernésiais with parallel English translation) by various writers was published in 2006. [24]

Original literature continues to be promoted by organisations and institutions such as the Eisteddfod or the Mod. In Welsh poetry, Alan Llwyd came to prominence when he achieved the rare feat of winning both the Crown and the Chair at the 1973 National Eisteddfod and then repeated the feat in 1976. He also wrote the script for the Oscar-nominated Welsh-language film Hedd Wyn (1992) about the life of poet Hedd Wyn, who was killed in World War I.

Translations are an important feature of the literatures of the regional languages of the islands, for example: Alice in Wonderland has been translated into Manx as Contoyryssyn Ealish ayns Cheer ny Yindyssyn by Brian Stowell (published in 1990) and into Cornish as Alys in Pow an Anethow by Nicholas Williams (published in 2009), and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was translated into Jèrriais, from the English version by Edward FitzGerald, during the German Occupation by Frank Le Maistre[25], and into Scots by Rab Wilson (published in 2004). Alexander Hutchison has translated the poetry of Catullus into Scots, and in the 1980s Liz Lochhead produced a Scots translation of Tartuffe by Molière.

Literary prizes

Recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature from the isles include Rudyard Kipling (1907), George Bernard Shaw (1925), John Galsworthy (1932), T. S. Eliot (1948), Bertrand Russell (1950), Winston Churchill (1953), William Golding (1983), Seamus Heaney (1995), V. S. Naipaul (2001), Harold Pinter (2005) and Doris Lessing (2007).

Literary prizes for which writers from the United Kingdom are eligible include:

See also


  1. ^ "British literature - Books tagged British literature". LibraryThing. Retrieved 23-01-2010. 
  2. ^ Garret Olmsted, "The Earliest Narrative Version of the Táin: Seventh-century poetic references to Táin bó Cúailnge", Emania 10, 1992, pp. 5-17
  3. ^ Wace's Roman de Brut - A History of the British, Weiss, Exeter 1999, ISBN 0-85989-734-6
  4. ^ Wace's Roman de Brut - A History of the British, Weiss, Exeter 1999, ISBN 0-85989-734-6
  5. ^ Encyclopedia of Literature -, Volume 1 By Joseph T. Shipley (page 176) here
  6. ^ Adventures in Philosophy: A Brief History of Jewish Philosophy
  7. ^ A general history of the robberies & murders of the most notorious pirates. By Charles Johnson Introduction and commentary by David Cordingly. Conway Maritime Press (2002).
  8. ^ Robert DeMaria (2001), British Literature 1640 -1789: An Anthology, Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 0-631-21769-X 
  9. ^ The Cornish writings of the Boson family: Nicholas, Thomas and John Boson, of Newlyn, circa 1660 to 1730, Edited with translations and notes by O. J. Padel (Redruth: Institute of Cornish Studies, 1975) ISBN 0903686090
  10. ^ La Grève de Lecq, Roger Jean Lebarbenchon, 1988 ISBN 2-905385-13-8
  11. ^ Ellis, p. 129.
  12. ^ Koch, pp. 492–493.
  13. ^ Skal, David J. (1996). V is for Vampire. p.99. New York: Plume. ISBN 0-452-27173-8.
  14. ^ Beebe, Maurice (Fall 1972). "Ulysses and the Age of Modernism". James Joyce Quarterly (University of Tulsa) 10 (1): p. 176.
  15. ^ The Cambridge companion to Virginia Woolf. By Sue Roe, Susan Sellers. p.219. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  16. ^ Carol Ann Duffy is the new Poet Laureate at The Poetry Society
  17. ^ Manchester Metropolitan University, Profile: Professor Carol Ann Duffy, accessed November 2, 2009.
  18. ^ Edwin Morgan announced as the first Scots Makar, 2004
  19. ^ ASLS: A National Poet for Scotland
  20. ^ Academi
  21. ^ Scots: The Language of the People, Carl MacDougall, Edinburgh 2006, ISBN 1-84502-084-7
  22. ^ Koch, John T. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-85109-440-7
  23. ^ George d'la Forge: Guardian of the Jersey Norman heritage – A study of the life and writings of George Francis Le Feuvre (1891-1984), Annette Torode, Jersey, 2003, ISBN 1-904210-10-5
  24. ^ P'tites Lures Guernésiaises, edited Hazel Tomlinson, Jersey 2006, ISBN1903341477
  25. ^ Eune Collection Jèrriaise, Société Jersiaise, Jersey 2007 ISBN 0-901897-41-8

External links


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