World General Knowledge

Brief Overview of English Literature

Brief Overview of English Literature

English Literature as an art consists more than a period of Six centuries approximately. Often we start reading it from the period of Chaucer but seeds of English language started to be sowed with the coming of ‘Saxons’ to England in 450 AD.

The History of English Language

The history of English Language started with the Normans (originally a Germanic Tribe) who had settled in Normandy in the north of France, and had adopted a modified French language and culture. As a result of the conquest, the refinement of French culture came to be introduced into England exerted a powerful and formative influence on its language and literature. The Norman rulers looked down upon the English as a barbarous and backward people, and despised the rude taste of their language that lacked the elegance and grace of French. Naturally under their rule French had to be the language of the Court and the Government, and those among the conquered people who had dealings with the Government thought it prudent to learn French in addition to their own language. The Conquest also tended to bring the native population together as never before, and the several dialects spoken in the different parts of the country were gradually assimilated to form a common language. English which was basically the Midland dialect, became common among people.

This is how we come to a great era of the beautiful literature of this universal language, as it is called now. We have to divide the literature of English into ages-

1) Pre Chaucer Period
2) Chaucer to Shakespeare
3) Jacobean to Restoration Periods
4) Augustan Age: 18th Century Literature
5) Romantic Period
6) Victorian Period
7) Modern Period
8) Contemporary Period

Timeline History of English Literature

c. 1300: Duns Scotus, known as the Subtle Doctor in medieval times, later provides humanists with the name Dunsman or dunce

c. 1340: William of Ockham advocates paring down arguments to their essentials, an approach later known as Ockham’s Razor

c. 1367: A narrator who calls himself Will, and whose name may be Langland, begins the epic poem of Piers Plowman

1367: One of four new yeomen of the chamber in Edward III’s household is Geoffrey Chaucer

c. 1375: The courtly poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tells of a mysterious visitor to the round table of King Arthur

1385: Chaucer completes Troilus and Criseyde, his long poem about a legendary love affair in ancient Troy

c. 1387: Chaucer begins an ambitious scheme for 100 Canterbury Tales, of which he completes only 24 by the time of his death

1469: Thomas Malory, in gaol somewhere in England, compiles Morte d’Arthur – an English account of the French tales of King Arthur 

History of English Literature (1500-1600)

1510: Erasmus and Thomas More take the northern Renaissance in the direction of Christian humanism

1524: William Tyndale studies in the university at Wittenberg and plans to translate the Bible into English

1549: The first version of the English prayer book, or Book of Common Prayer, is published with text by Thomas Cranmer

1564: Marlowe and Shakespeare are born in the same year, with Marlowe the older by two months

1567: The Book of Common Prayer and the New Testament are published in Welsh, to be followed by the complete Bible in 1588

1582: The 18-year-old William Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway in Stratford-upon-Avon

1587: Marlowe’s first play, Tamburlaine the Great, introduces the swaggering blank verse of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama

1590: English poet Edmund Spenser celebrates the Protestant Elizabeth I as The Faerie Queene

1592: After tentative beginnings in the three parts of Henry VI, Shakespeare achieves his first masterpiece on stage with Richard III

History of English Literature (1601-1700)

1601: Shakespeare’s central character in Hamlet expresses both the ideals of the Renaissance and the disillusion of a less confident age

1604: James I commissions the Authorized version of the Bible, which is completed by forty-seven scholars in seven years

1604: William Shakespeare’s name appears among the actors in a list of the King’s Men

1605: Ben Jonson writes The Masque of Blackness, the first of his many masques for the court of James I

1606: The satirical voice of the English playwright Ben Jonson is heard to powerful effect in Volpone

1609: Shakespeare’s sonnets, written ten years previously, are published

c. 1611: Shakespeare’s last completed play, The Tempest, is performed

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1616: John Smith publishes A Description of New England, an account of his exploration of the region in 1614

1616: William Shakespeare dies at New Place, his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, and is buried in Holy Trinity Church

1621: John Donne, England’s leading Metaphysical poet, becomes dean of St Paul’s

1623: John Heminge and Henry Condell publish thirty-six Shakespeare plays in the First Folio

1633: George Herbert’s only volume of poems, The Temple, is published posthumously

1637: John Milton’s Lycidas is published in memory of a Cambridge friend, Edward King

1650: The poems of Massachusetts author Anne Bradstreet are published in London under the title The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America

1653: Devoted fisherman Izaak Walton publishes the classic work on the subject, The Compleat Angler

1660: On the first day of the new year Samuel Pepys gets up late, eats the remains of the turkey and begins his diary

1667: Paradise Lost is published, earning its author John Milton just £10

1669: Samuel Pepys ends his diary, after only writing it for nine years

1678: Part I of The Pilgrim’s Progress, written during John Bunyan’s two spells in Bedford Gaol, is published and is immediately popular

1680: John Bunyan publishes The Life and Death of Mr Badman, an allegory of a misspent life that is akin to a novel

1688: Aphra Behn’s novel Oroonoko makes an early protest against the inhumanity of the African slave trade

1690: John Locke publishes his Essay concerning Human Understanding, arguing that all knowledge is based on experience

History of English Literature (1701-1800)

1702: The Augustan Age begins in English literature, claiming comparison with the equivalent flowering under Augustus Caesar

1709: The Tatler launches a new style of journalism in Britain’s coffee houses, followed two years later by the Spectator

1710: 25-year-old George Berkeley attacks Locke in his Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

1712: Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock introduces a delicate vein of mock-heroic in English poetry

1719: Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, with its detailed realism, can be seen as the first English novel

1726: Jonathan Swift launches his hero on a series of bitterly satirical adventures in Gulliver’s Travels

1739: David Hume publishes his Treatise of Human Nature, in which he applies to the human mind the principles of experimental science

1747: Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa begins the correspondence which grows into the longest novel in the English language

1749: Henry Fielding introduces a character of lasting appeal in the lusty but good-hearted Tom Jones

1751: English poet Thomas Gray publishes his Elegy written in a Country Church Yard

1755: Samuel Johnson publishes his magisterial Dictionary of the English Language

1758: James Woodforde, an English country parson with a love of food and wine, begins a detailed diary of everyday life

1759: Laurence Sterne publishes the first two volumes of Tristram Shandy, beginning with the scene at the hero’s conception

1762: Fingal, supposedly by the medieval poet Ossian, is a forgery in the spirit of the times by James MacPherson

1763: James Boswell meets Samuel Johnson for the first time, in the London bookshop of Thomas Davies

1764: English historian Edward Gibbon, sitting among ruins in Rome, conceives the idea of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

1764: English author Horace Walpole provides an early taste of Gothic thrills in his novel Castle of Otranto

1768: A Society of Gentlemen in Scotland begins publication of the immensely successful Encyclopaedia Britannica

1770: 17-year-old Thomas Chatterton, later hailed as a significant poet, commits suicide in a London garret

1773: Oliver Goldsmith’s play She Stoops to Conquer is produced in London’s Covent Garden theatre

1773: Samuel Johnson and James Boswell undertake a journey together to the western islands of Scotland

1774: Encouraged by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine emigrates to America and settles in Philadelphia

1776: English historian Edward Gibbon publishes the first volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

1776: Scottish economist Adam Smith analyzes the nature and causes of the Wealth of Nations

1777: Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s second play, The School for Scandal, is an immediate success in London’s Drury Lane theatre

1789: William Blake publishes Songs of Innocence, a volume of his poems with every page etched and illustrated by himself

1789: In his Principles Jeremy Bentham defines ‘utility’ as that which enhances pleasure and reduces pain

1790: Anglo-Irish politician Edmund Burke publishes Reflections on the Revolution in France, a blistering attack on recent events across the Channel

1791: Scottish poet Robert Burns publishes Tam o’ Shanter, in which a drunken farmer has an alarming encounter with witches

1791: Thomas Paine publishes the first part of The Rights of Man, his reply to Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France

1792: English author Mary Wollstonecraft publishes a passionately feminist work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

1792: Thomas Paine moves hurriedly to France, to escape a charge of treason in England for opinions expressed in his Rights of Man

1794: William Blake’s volume Songs of Innocence and Experience includes his poem ‘Tyger! Tyger! burning bright’

1795: Thomas Paine publishes his completed Age of Reason, an attack on conventional Christianity

1797: Samuel Taylor Coleridge says that while writing Kubla Khan he is interrupted by ‘a person on business from Porlock’

1798: English poets Wordsworth and Coleridge jointly publish Lyrical Ballads, a milestone in the Romantic Movement

1798: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is published in Lyrical Ballads

History of English Literature (1801-1900)

1804: William Blake includes his poem ‘Jerusalem’ in the Preface to his book Milton

1805: Walter Scott publishes The Lay of the Last Minstrel, the long romantic poem that first brings him fame

1810: Walter Scott’s poem Lady of the Lake brings tourists in unprecedented numbers to Scotland’s Loch Katrine

1811: Percy Bysshe Shelley is expelled from Oxford University for circulating a pamphlet with the title The Necessity of Atheism

1811: English author Jane Austen publishes her first work in print, Sense and Sensibility, at her own expense

1812: The first two cantos are published of Byron’s largely autobiographical poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, bringing him immediate fame

1813: Pride and Prejudice, based on a youthful work of 1797 called First Impressions, is the second of Jane Austen’s novels to be published

1818: Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes probably his best-known poem, the sonnet Ozymandias

1818: Two of Jane Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are published in the year after her death

1818: Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, a Gothic tale about giving life to an artificial man

1819: William Cobbett brings back to England the bones of Thomas Paine, who died in the USA in 1809

1819: Byron begins publication in parts of his longest poem, Don Juan an epic satirical comment on contemporary life

1819 November 22: Mary Anne Evans (known now as George Eliot) is born in the parish of Chilvers Coton in Warwickshire

1819: Walter Scott publishes Ivanhoe, a tale of love, tournaments and sieges at the time of the crusades

1820: English poet John Keats publishes Ode to a Nightingale, inspired by the bird’s song in his Hampstead garden

1820: English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes Ode to the West Wind, written mainly in a wood near Florence

1821: English author Thomas De Quincey publishes his autobiographical Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

1821: English poet John Keats dies in Rome at the age of twenty-five

1821: English radical William Cobbett begins his journeys round England, published in 1830 as Rural Rides

1821: English author William Hazlitt publishes Table Talk, a two-volume collection that includes most of his best-known essays

1824: 12-year-old Charles Dickens works in London in Warren’s boot-blacking factory

1832: English author Frances Trollope ruffles transatlantic feathers with her Domestic Manners of the Americans, based on a 3-year stay

1836: 24-year-old Charles Dickens begins monthly publication of his first work of fiction, Pickwick Papers (published in book form in 1837)

1837: Charles Dickens’ first novel, Oliver Twist, begins monthly publication (in book form, 1838)

1842: English poet Robert Browning publishes a vivid narrative poem about the terrible revenge of The Pied Piper of Hamelin

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1842: English author Thomas Babington Macaulay publishes a collection of stirring ballads, Lays of Ancient Rome

1843: Ebenezer Scrooge mends his ways just in time in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

1844: In his novel Coningsby Benjamin Disraeli develops the theme of Conservatism uniting ‘two nations’, the rich and the poor

1845: Friedrich Engels, after running a textile factory in Manchester, publishes The Condition of the Working Class in England

1846: Edward Lear publishes his Book of Nonsense, consisting of limericks illustrated with his own cartoons

1846: Mary Anne Evans’ translation from the German of David Friedrich Strauss’s controversial Life of Jesus is published anonymously

1846: After marrying secretly, the English poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett go abroad to live in Florence

1846: The three Brontë sisters jointly publish a volume of their poems and sell just two copies

1847: English author William Makepeace Thackeray begins publication of his novel Vanity Fair in monthly parts (book form 1848)

1847: Charlotte becomes the first of the Brontë sisters to have a novel published — Jane Eyre

1847: Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights follows just two months after her sister Charlotte’s Jane Eyre

1848: Branwell, Emily and Anne Brontë die within a period of eight months

1849: Charles Dickens begins the publication in monthly numbers of David Copperfield, his own favourite among his novels

1850: Alfred Tennyson’s elegy for a friend, In Memoriam, captures perfectly the Victorian mood of heightened sensibility

1852: London physician Peter Mark Roget publishes his dictionary of synonyms, the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

1854: Within six weeks of the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea, Tennyson publishes a poem finding heroism in the disaster

1855: Tennyson publishes a long narrative poem, Maud, a section of which (‘Come into the garden, Maud’) becomes famous as a song

1855: English author Anthony Trollope publishes The Warden, the first in his series of six Barsetshire novels

1857: In Tom Brown’s Schooldays Thomas Hughes depicts the often brutal aspects of an English public school

1859: Charles Darwin puts forward the theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species, the result of 20 years’ research

1859 February: English author George Eliot wins fame with her first full-length novel, Adam Bede

1859: In On Liberty John Stuart Mill makes the classic liberal case for the priority of the freedom of the individual

1859: Samuel Smiles provides an inspiring ideal of Victorian enterprise in Self-Help, a manual for ambitious young men

1859: Tennyson publishes the first part of Idylls of the King, a series of linked poems about Britain’s mythical king Arthur

1859: Charles Dickens publishes his French Revolution novel, A Tale of Two Cities

1859: Edward FitzGerald publishes The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, romantic translations of the work of the Persian poet

1860: Charles Dickens begins serial publication of his novel “Great Expectations” (in book form 1861)

1860: George Eliot publishes The Mill on the Floss, her novel about the childhood of Maggie and Tom Tulliver

1861: Mrs Henry Wood publishes her first novel, East Lynne, which becomes the basis of the most popular of all Victorian melodramas

1862: Oxford mathematician Lewis Carroll tells 10-year-old Alice Liddell, on a boat trip, a story about her own adventures in Wonderland

1863: English author Charles Kingsley publishes an improving fantasy for young children, The Water-Babies

1865: Lewis Carroll publishes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a development of the story he had told Alice Liddell three years earlier

1866: Algernon Swinburne scandalizes Victorian Britain with his first collection, Poems and Ballads

1867: The first volume of Das Kapital is completed by Marx in London and is published in Hamburg

1869: English author Matthew Arnold publishes Culture and Anarchy, an influential collection of essays about

contemporary society

1871: George Eliot publishes Middlemarch, in which Dorothea makes a disastrous marriage to the pedantic Edward Casaubon

1872: Lewis Carroll publishes Through the Looking Glass, a second story of Alice’s adventures

1874: English author Thomas Hardy has his first success with his novel Far from the Madding Crowd

1875: After spending much time in Europe in recent years, Henry James moves there permanently and settles first in Paris

1875: Henry James’s early novel Roderick Hudson is serialized in the Atlantic Monthly and is published in book form in 1876

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1876: William Gladstone’s pamphlet Bulgarian Horrors, protesting at massacre by the Turks, sells 200,000 copies within a month

1876: Henry James moves to London, which remains his home for the next 22 years

1876: English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins develops a new verse form that he calls ‘sprung rhythm’

1876: Lewis Carroll publishes The Hunting of the Snark, a poem about a voyage in search of an elusive mythical creature

1878: 21-year-old Joseph Conrad, a Polish subject, goes to sea with the British merchant navy

1879: Henry James’s story Daisy Miller, about an American girl abroad, brings him a new readership

1881: The Aesthetic Movement and ‘art for art’s sake’, attitudes personified above all by Whistler and Wilde, are widely mocked and satirized in Britain

1883: Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure story, Treasure Island, features Long John Silver and Ben Gunn

1884: Oxford University Press publishes the A volume of its New English Dictionary, which will take 37 years to reach Z

1885: Explorer and orientalist Richard Burton begins publication of his multi-volume translation from the Arabic of The Arabian Nights

1886: Robert Louis Stevenson introduces a dual personality in his novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

1886: Thomas Hardy publishes his novel The Mayor of Casterbridge, which begins with the future mayor, Michael Henchard selling his wife and child at a fair

1886: Joseph Conrad becomes naturalized as a British subject and continues his career at sea in the far East

1887: Sherlock Holmes features in Conan Doyle’s first novel, A Study in Scarlet

1889: 23-year-old Irish author William Butler Yeats publishes his first volume of poems, The Wanderings of Oisin

1889: The Fabian Society publishes Essays in Socialisman influential volume of essays edited by Bernard Shaw

1890: Scottish anthropologist James Frazer publishes The Golden Bough, a massive compilation of contemporary knowledge about ritual and religious custom

1890: 9-year-old Daisy Ashford imagines an adult romance and high society in The Young Visiters

1891: A Gaelic pressure group, the Highland Association, is founded to preserve the indigenous poetry and music of Scotland

1891: Oscar Wilde publishes his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray in which the ever-youthful hero’s portrait grows old and ugly

1891: Thomas Hardy publishes his novel Tess of the Durbervilles, with a dramatic finale at Stonehenge

1892: Oscar Wilde’s comedy Lady Windermere’s Fan is a great success with audiences in London’s St. James Theatre

1892: W.B. Yeats founds the National Literary Society in Dublin, with Douglas Hyde as its first president

1892: W.B. Yeats publishes a short play The Countess Cathleen, his first contribution to Irish poetic drama

1892: Bernard Shaw’s first play, Widowers’ Houses, deals with the serious social problem of slum landlords

1892: Mr Pooter is the suburban anti-hero of the The Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith

1894: French-born artist and author George du Maurier publishes his novel Trilby

1894: Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book surrounds the child Mowgli with a collection of vivid animal guardians

1895: Oscar Wilde’s most brilliant comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest is performed in London’s St. James Theatre

1895: Oscar Wilde loses a libel case that he has brought against the marquess of Queensberry for describing him as a sodomite

1895: Oscar Wilde is sent to Reading Gaol to serve a two-year sentence with hard labour after being convicted of homosexuality

1895: H.G. Wells publishes The Time Machine, a story about a Time Traveller whose first stop on his journey is the year 802701

1896: English poet A.E. Housman publishes his first collection, A Shropshire Lad

1897: Somerset Maugham publishes his first novel, Liza of Lambeth, based on the London life he has observed as a medical student

1897: English author Bram Stoker publishes Dracula, his gothic tale of vampirism in Transylvania

1898: Henry James moves from London to Lamb House in Rye, Sussex, which remains his home for the rest of his life

1898: H.G. Wells publishes his science-fiction novel The War of the Worlds, in which Martians arrive in a rocket to invade earth

1898: Henry James publishes The Turn of the Screw in a collection of short stories

1899: E. Nesbit publishes The Story of the Treasure Seekers, introducing the Bastable family who feature in several of her books for children

History of English Literature (1900-2000)

1900: Joseph Conrad publishes his novel Lord Jim about a life of failure and redemption in the far East

1901: Beatrix Potter publishes at her own expense The Tale of Peter Rabbit

1901: Rudyard Kipling’s experiences of India are put to good use in his novel Kim

1902: Rudyard Kipling publishes his Just So Stories for Little Children

1902: The play Cathleen ni Houlihan, by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, fosters Irish nationalism

1902: Rudyard Kipling moves to Bateman’s in Sussex, his home for the rest of his life

1902: The Tale of Peter Rabbit is published commercially, a year after being first printed by Beatrix Potter at her own expense

1902: John Masefield’s poem ‘Sea Fever’ is published in Salt-Water Ballads

1902: Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles begins publication in serial form

1902: Henry James publishes the first of his three last novels, The Wings of the Dove

1902: Joseph Conrad publishes a collection of stories including Heart of Darkness, a sinister tale based partly on his own journey up the Congo

1903: Erskine Childers has a best-seller in The Riddle of the Sands, a thriller about a planned German invasion of Britain

1903: Henry James publishes The Ambassadors, the second of his three last novels written in rapid succession

1903: British philosopher G.E. Moore publishes Principia Ethica, an attempt to apply logic to ethics

1904: Joseph Conrad publishes his novel Nostromo, about a revolution in South America and a fatal horde of silver

1904: Henry James publishes his last completed novel, The Golden Bowl

1904: J.M Barrie’s play for children Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up has its premiere in London

1904: Under the pseudonym Saki, H.H. Munro publishes Reginald, his first volume of short stories

c. 1905: The Bloomsbury Group gathers for informal evenings at the family home of Virginia and Vanessa Stephens (later Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell)

1905: Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, a letter of recrimination written in Reading Gaol to Lord Alfred Douglas, is published posthumously

1905: Beatrix Potter buys Hill Top Farm, in Sawrey, where for nearly thirty years she breeds a local variety of sheep

1905: H.G. Wells publishes Kipps: the story of a simple soul, a comic novel about a bumbling draper’s assistant

1905: Bernard Shaw has two new plays opening in London in the same year, Major Barbara and Man and Superman

1905: Sir Percy Blakeney rescues aristocrats from the guillotine in Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel

1906: The first volume of the inexpensive Everyman’s Library is issued by Joseph Dent, a London publisher

1906: E. Nesbit publishes The Railway Children, the most successful of her books featuring the Bastable family

1906: John Galsworthy publishes The Man of Property, the first of his novels chronicling the family of Soames Forsyte

1907: J.M. Synge’s Playboy of the Western World provokes violent reactions at its Dublin premiere

1907: Edmund Gosse publishes Father and Son, an account of his difficult relationship with his fundamentalist father, Philip Gosse

1907: James Joyce completes the eight short stories eventually published in 1914 as Dubliners

1908: Rat, Mole and Toad, in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, appeal to a wide readership

1908: The Welsh poet W.H. Davies has a success with The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, his account of life on the road and in dosshouses

1909: The heroine of H.G. Wells’ novel Ann Veronica is a determined example of the New Woman

1910: In his poem Cargoes John Masefield compares a ‘dirty British coaster’ with two romantic boats from the past

1910: John Buchan publishes Prester John, the first of his adventure stories

1910: H.G. Wells publishes The History of Mr Polly, a novel about an escape from drab everyday existence

1910: Rudyard Kipling publishes If, which rapidly becomes his most popular poem among the British

1910: E.M. Forster publishes Howard’s End, his novel about the Schlegel sisters and the Wilcox family

1911: D.H. Lawrence’s career as a writer is launched with the publication of his first novel, The White Peacock

1911: Rupert Brooke publishes Poems, the only collection to appear before his early death in World War I

1911: G.K. Chesterton’s clerical detective makes his first appearance in The Innocence of Father Brown

1911: In a German Pension is New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield’s first collection of stories

1911: Hugo von Hofmannsthal adapts the English medieval morality play Everyman (‘Jedermann’) for performance in Salzburg

1911: Max Beerbohm publishes his novel Zuleika Dobson, in which the beauty of his heroine causes havoc among the students at Oxford

1912: Ludwig Wittgenstein moves to Cambridge to study philosophy under Bertrand Russell

1912: Walter De la Mare establishes his reputation with the title poem of his collection The Listeners

1913: The first issue of the New Statesman is published by Beatrice and Sidney Webb

1913: Compton Mackenzie publishes the first volume of his autobiographial novel Sinister Street

1913: Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell complete a work of mathematical logic, Principia Mathematica

1913: D.H. Lawrence publishes a semi-autobiographical novel about the Morel family, Sons and Lovers

1914: James Joyce’s novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man begins serial publication in a London journal, The Egoist

1914: After years of delay James Joyce’s Dubliners, a collection of short stories, is published

1914: American-born poet Thomas Stearns Eliot crosses the Atlantic to England, making it his home for the rest of his life

1914: The Times Literary Supplement is published in London as an independent paper, separate from The Times

c. 1914: Robert Tressell’s Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is published posthumously in an abbreviated version

1915: Somerset Maugham publishes his semi-autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage

1915: The English writer Virginia Woolf publishes her first novel, The Voyage Out

1915: D.H. Lawrence’s novel about the Brangwen family, The Rainbow, is seized by the police as an obscene work

1915: Secret agent Richard Hannay makes his first appearance in John Buchan’s Thirty-Nine Steps

1915: Rupert Brooke’s 1914 and Other Poems is published a few months after his death in Greece

1916: Robert Graves publishes his first book of poems, Over the Brazier

1916: The author H.H. Munro (‘Saki’) is killed by a sniper’s bullet on a battlefield in France

1917: Jeeves and Bertie Wooster make their first appearance in P.G. Wodehouse’s The Man with Two Left Feet

1918: Lytton Strachey fails to show conventional respect to four famous Victorians in his influential volume of short biographes entitled Eminent Victorians

1918: Rebecca West publishes her first novel, The Return of the Soldier

1919: In The Economic Consequences of the Peace Maynard Keynes publishes a strong attack on the reparations demanded from Germany

1920: Sapper’s patriotic hero makes his first appearance, taking on the villainous Carl Peterson in Bull-dog Drummond

1920: D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, a continuation of the family story in The Rainbow, is published first in the USA

1920: The Belgian detective Hercule Poirot features in Agatha Christie’s first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles

1921: Somerset Maugham’s short story ‘Rain’ (in his collection The Trembling of a Leaf) introduces the lively American prostitute Sadie Thompson

1921: Ludwig Wittgenstein publishes his influential study of the philosophy of logic, Tractatus Logico Philosophicus

1922: John Galsworthy publishes his novels about the Forsyte family as a joint collection under the title The Forsyte Saga

1922: American-born poet T.S. Eliot publishes The Waste Land, an extremely influential poem in five fragmented sections

1923: The gentleman detective Lord Peter Wimsey makes his first appearance in Dorothy Sayers’ Whose Body?

1923: Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan has its world premiere in New York

1924: E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India builds on cultural misconceptions between the British and Indian communities

1924: Christopher Robin features for the first time in A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young

1925: English writer Ivy Compton-Burnett finds her characteristic voice in her second novel, Pastors and Masters

1925: Virgiinia Woolf publishes her novel Mrs Dalloway, in which the action is limited to a single day

1926: Patrick Abercrombie publishes The Preservation of Rural England, calling for rural planning to prevent the encroachment of towns

1926: T.E. Lawrence publishes privately his autobiographical Seven Pillars of Wisdom, describing his part in the Arab uprising

1926: Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the others make their first appearance in A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh

1926: Hugh MacDiarmid writes his long poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle in a revived version of the Lallans dialect of the Scottish borders

1927: Henry Williamson wins a wide readership with Tarka the Otter, a realistic story of the life and death of an otter in Devon

1927: Anglo-Irish author Elizabeth Bowen publishes her first novel, The Hotel

1927: Virginia Woolf uses a Hebridean holiday as the setting for her narrative in To The Lighthouse

1928: Caribbean-born author Jean Rhys publishes her first novel, Postures, based on her affair with the writer Ford Madox Ford

1928: Siegfried Sassoon publishes Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, the first volume of a semi-autobiographical trilogy

1928: Set in a World War I trench, the play Journey’s End reflects the wartime experiences of its British author, R.C. Sherriff

1928: D.H. Lawrence’s new novel, in which Lady Chatterley is in love with her husband’s gamekeeper, is privately printed in Florence

1928: Evelyn Waugh succeeds with a comic first novel, Decline and Fall

1928: Radclyffe Hall’s novel The Well of Loneliness is the first to deal openly with a lesbian subject

1929: Richard Hughes publishes his first novel, A High Wiind in Jamaica

1929: Blind Fireworks is Ulster writer Louis MacNeice’s first collection of poems

1929: English author J.B. Priestley has an immediate success with his first novel, The Good Companions

1929: English poet Robert Graves puts behind him an England he dislikes in his autobiography, Goodbye to All That

1930: English author W.H. Auden’s first collection of poetry is published with the simple title Poems

1930: Swallows and Amazons is the first of Arthur Ransome’s adventure stories for children

1930: Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence star in the West End in Private Lives, Coward’s comedy of marital complications

1930: Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple makes her first appearance, in Murder at the Vicarage

1930: A spoof history text book, 1066 and all that, is justifiably described by its authors, Walter Sellar and Robert Yeatman, as a Memorable History of England

1931: Virginia Woolf publishes the most fluid of her novels, The Waves, in which she tells the story through six interior monologues

1932: US poet Archibald MacLeish publishes a narrative epic, Conquistador, about the conquest of Mexico

1932: British author C.S. Lewis publishes a moral parable, The Screwtape Letters, about the problems confronting a trainee devil

1932: British author Aldous Huxley gives a bleak view of a science-based future in his novel Brave New World

1932: John Cowper Powys’s novel A Glastonbury Romance is published first in New York

1933: H.G. Wells publishes The Shape of Things to Come, a novel in which he accurately predicts a renewal of world war

1933: The Pylon group of British poets get their name from Stephen Spender’s poem ‘The Pylons’

1933: English author Antonia White publishes an autobiographical first novel, Frost in May

1933: In Down and Out in Paris and London English author George Orwell writes a sympathetic account of the people he meets on hard times

1934: In I, Claudius the autobiography of the Roman emperor is ghost-written by Robert Graves

1934: In A Handful of Dust Evelyn Waugh sends his hero Tony Last to a disastrous fate, far away in the Amazon rain forest

1935: T.S. Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral has its first performance in Canterbury cathedral

1935: Elias Canetti publishes the novel later translated into English as Auto da Fé

1935: British publisher Allen Lane launches a paperback series to which he gives the name Penguin Books

1936: John Maynard Keynes defines his economics in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

1936: In Language, Truth and Logic 26-year-old A.J. Ayer produces a classic exposition of Logical Positivism

1936: Terence Rattigan’s first play, French without Tears, is performed in London

1937: C.S. Forester’s central character, Horatio Hornblower, features for the first time – in The Happy Return

1937: George Orwell reveals the harsh realities of contemporary British life in The Road to Wigan Pier

1938: British author Evelyn Waugh publishes a classic Fleet Street novel, Scoop, introducing Lord Copper, proprietor of The Beast

1938: In Homage to Catalonia George Orwell describes his experiences fighting for the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War

1938: British author Graham Greene publishes Brighton Rock, a novel following 17-year-old Pinkie in the criminal underworld of the seaside town

1938: Maxim de Winter’s house, Manderley, holds dark secrets in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca

1939: W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood emigrate together to the USA, later becoming US citizens

1939: Irish author Flann O’Brien publishes his first novel, At Swim-Two-Birds

1939: British author Christopher Isherwood publishes his novel Goodbye to Berlin, based on his own experiences in the city

1939: T.S. Eliot gives cats a poetic character in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

1940: Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman is rejected by numerous publishers before becoming, decades later, his best-known novel

1941: British author Rebecca West publishes an account of Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

1942: English children’s author Enid Blyton introduces the Famous Five in Five on a Treasure Island

1944: The separate poems forming T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets are brought together for the first time as a single volume, published in New York

1945: English author Nancy Mitford has her first success with the novel The Pursuit of Love

1945: Evelyn Waugh publishes Brideshead Revisited, a novel about a rich Catholic family in England between the wars

1945: In George Orwell’s fable Animal Farm a ruthless pig, Napoleon, controls the farmyard using the techniques of Stalin

1946: Titus Groan begins British author Mervyn Peake’s trilogy of gothic novels

1947: English author and alcoholic Malcolm Lowry publishes an autobiographical novel, Under the Volcano

1947: J.B. Priestley challenges audiences with An Inspector Calls, a play in which moral guilt spreads like an infection

1948: Christopher Fry’s verse drama The Lady’s Not For Burning engages in high-spirited poetic word play

1949: Enid Blyton introduces her most successful character, Noddy, a small boy who can’t avoid nodding when he speaks

1949: George Orwell publishes Nineteen Eighty-Four, a novel set in a terrifying totalitarian state of the future, watched over by Big Brother

1950: The Family Moskat, about a Jewish family in Warsaw, is the first of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s books to be published in English

1950: C.S. Lewis gives the first glimpse of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

1950: British author Doris Lessing publishes her first novel, The Grass is Singing

1951: British author John Wyndham creates a dark fantasy in his novel The Day of the Triffids

1951: A Question of Upbringing begins Antony Powell’s ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’

1951: British art historian Nikolaus Pevsner undertakes a massive task, a county-by-county description of The Buildings of England

1952: Evelyn Waugh publishes Men at Arms, the first novel in the Sword of Honour trilogy based on his wartime experiences

1953: English author L.P. Hartley sets his novel The Go-Between in the summer of 1900

1953: James Bond, agent 007, has a licence to kill in Ian Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale

1954: Dylan Thomas’s ‘play for voices’, Under Milk Wood, is broadcast on BBC radio, with Richard Burton as narrator

1954: Politician and author Winston Churchill completes his six-volume history The Second World War

1954: Anglo-Irish novelist Iris Murdoch publishes her first novel, Under the Net

1954: English author Kingsley Amis’s first novel, Lucky Jim, strikes an anti-establishment chord

1954: William Golding gives a chilling account of schoolboy savagery in his first novel, Lord of the Flies

c. 1955: Kingsley Amis and other young writers in Britain become known as Angry Young Men

1955: Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American is set in contemporary Vietnam and foresees troubles ahead

1955: English poet Philip Larkin finds his distinctive voice in his collection The Less Deceived

1955: British philologist J.R.R. Tolkien publishes the third and final volume of his epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings

1956: English poet Ted Hughes marries US poet Sylvia Plath

1956: John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger features in the first season of London’s new English Stage Company

1957: The Hawk in the Rain is English author Ted Hughes’ first volume of poems

1957: The publication of the novel Justine launches Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet

1957: English author John Braine publishes his first novel, Room at the Top

1957: English author Stevie Smith publishes her collection of poems Not Waving but Drowning

1957: Laurence Olivier brings the music-hall artist Archie Rice vibrantly to life in John Osborne’s The Entertainer

1958: Irish dramatist Brendan Behan’s play The Hostage is produced in Dublin

1958: Chicken Soup with Barley begins a trilogy by English playwright Arnold Wesker

1958: English author Alan Sillitoe publishes his first novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

1958: Harold Pinter’s first play in London’s West End, The Birthday Party, closes in less than a week

1959: Keith Waterhouse has a wide success with his second novel, Billy Liar

1959: Harold Pinter’s second play in London’s West End, The Caretaker, immediately brings him an international reputation

1959: British author Laurie Lee remembers a Cotswold boyhood in Cider with Rosie

1960: English poet John Betjeman publishes his long autobiographical poem Summoned by Bells

1960: Paul Scofield plays Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons

1960: Penguin Books are prosecuted for obscenity for publishing D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and are acquitted

1961: British author Roald Dahl publishes a novel for children, James and the Giant Peach

1961: British novelist Muriel Spark publishes The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, set in an Edinburgh school in the 1930s

1962: Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, setting poems by Wilfred Owen, is first performed in the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral

1962: British author Doris Lessing publishes an influential feminist novel, The Golden Notebook

1962: British author P.D. James’s first novel, Cover Her Face, introduces her poet detective Adam Dalgleish

1962: Anthony Burgess publishes A Clockwork Orange, a novel depicting a disturbing and violent near-future

1963: US poet Sylvia Plath commits suicide in London

1963: English author John Le Carré publishes a Cold-War thriller The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

1963: English author Margaret Drabble publishes her first novel, A Summer Birdcage

1963: exual intercourse begins in this year, according to Philip Larkin’s 1974 poem Annus Mirabilis

1964: Roald Dahl publishes a fantasy treat for a starving child, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

1964: English author A.S. Byatt publishes her first novel, Shadow of a Sun

1966: English novelist Paul Scott publishes The Jewel in the Crown, the first volume in his ‘Raj Quartet’

1966: Irish poet Seamus Heaney wins critical acclaim for Death of a Naturalist, his first volume containing more than a few poems

1966: After a long period of obscurity, Wide Sargasso Sea brings novelist Jean Rhys back into the literary limelight

1966: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard, is produced at the Edinburgh Festival

1967: English author Angela Carter wins recognition with her quirky second novel, The Magic Toyshop

1967: English playwright Alan Ayckbourn has his first success with Relatively Speaking

1967: Three young Liverpool poets publish a shared anthology under the title The Mersey Sound

1967: A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, by English dramatist Peter Nichols, has its premiere in London

1968: English biographer Michael Holroyd completes his two-volume life of Lytton Strachey

1969: English novelist John Fowles publishes The French Lieutenant’s Woman, set in Lyme Regis in the 1860s

1972: English dramatist Caryl Churchill’s first play, Owners, is produced in London

1972: English poet James Fenton publishes his first collection, Terminal Moraine

1973: British economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher publishes an influential economic tract, Small is Beautiful

1973: Martin Amis, son of Kingsley Amis, publishes his first novel, The Rachel Papers

1974: German-born British art historian Nikolaus Pevsner completes his monumental 46-volume Buildings of England English Literature

1975: English author Ruth Prawer Jhabwala wins the Booker Prize with her novel Heat and Dust English Literature

1978: Iris Murdoch publishes The Sea, the Sea, and wins the 1978 Booker Prize

1978: English author Andrew Motion publishes his first collection of poems, The Pleasure Steamers English Literature

1978: British author Ian McEwan publishes his first novel, The Cement Garden English Literature

1979: Peter Shaffer’s play about Mozart, Amadeus, has its premiere in London

1981: War Music is the first instalment of Christopher Logue’s version of the Iliad English Literature

1981: English author Anita Brookner publishes her first novel, A Start in Life

1982: Michael Frayn’s farce Noises Off opens in London’s West end

1983: British economist Nicholas Kaldor attacks monetarism in The Economic Consequences of Mrs Thatcher

1983: Ronald Harwood’s play The Dresser is partly inspired by the British actor Donald Wolfit

1984: English author Julian Barnes publishes a multi-faceted literary novel, Flaubert’s Parrot

1985: British Rasta poet Benjamin Zephaniah publishes his second collection as The Dread Affair

1987: English poets John Fuller and James Fenton collaborate in a volume of satirical poems, Partingtime Hall

1987: Talking Heads, a series of dramatic monologues by English author Alan Bennett, is broadcast on British TV

1988: Ayatollah Khomeini declares a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his Satanic Verses

1988: British physicist Stephen Hawking explains the cosmos for the general reader in A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to Black Holes

1990: Racing Demon launches a trilogy on the British establishment by English playwright David Hare

1991: Alan Bennett’s play The Madness of George III is performed at the National Theatre in London

1991: Canadian poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje publishes The English Patient

1991: Regeneration is the first volume of English author Pat Barker’s trilogy of novels set during World War I

1992: English poet Thom Gunn’s The Man with Night Sweats deals openly with AIDS

1993: English novelist Sebastian Faulks publishes Birdsong, set partly in the trenches of World War I

1993: Scottish author Irvine Welsh publishes his first novel, Trainspotting English Literature

1994: Louis de Bernières publishes Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a love story set in Italian-occupied Cephalonia

1997: The poems forming Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters describe his relationship with Sylvia Plath

1997: A schoolboy wizard performs his first tricks in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

1998: Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen dramatizes the visit of Werner Heisenberg to Niels Bohr in wartime Denmark English Literature

1999: A translation by Irish author Seamus Heaney brings many new readers to the Old English poem Beowulf English Literature

2000: The Amber Spyglass completes Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials\

Brief Overview of English Literature

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