Why is the English familiar essay a specifically Romantic form and why does it seem to lose popularity and energy in the Victorian era?

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I think the answer might be to look at whether the question is assuming something that isn't the case. The personal essay really started with Plutarch, and flourishes with Montaigne in France. In England it was a hallmark of the Augustans -- Addison, Steele, Johnson, etc. When Leigh Hunt and...

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I think the answer might be to look at whether the question is assuming something that isn't the case. The personal essay really started with Plutarch, and flourishes with Montaigne in France. In England it was a hallmark of the Augustans -- Addison, Steele, Johnson, etc. When Leigh Hunt and the Romantics pick up the genre, even if their attitudes differ somewhat from those of their predecessors, I don`t think the generic conventions chage radically. The bellettristic essay remained quite healthy in the Victorian period -- Max Beerbohm is a classic example, but many of the other fin de siecle writers (Arthur Symons, for example) earned much of their living as essayists.

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