Representative Authors

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1764

Jane Austen (1775–1817)
Jane Austen was born December 16, 1775, in England, the youngest daughter of a Hampshire clergyman. Her six novels were set in the world in which she lived, that of the comfortable, rural middle class, and were often based on her observations of people she knew and her assessments of human character. The novels depict young women entering society, many of whom make mistakes or become confused but ultimately find their way to a happy marriage.

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Austen began writing as a teenager and initially shared her writing only with family and friends. When she eventually published, she did so anonymously. Not well known in her own time, she soon garnered a reputation for her precision, irony, and delicate touch as a writer. Her best-known works are Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Emma (1816). She influenced many later writers, including Charles Dickens, W. M. Thackeray, and Anthony Trollope, as well as George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. Austen’s books have endured to the present day as some of the few “classics” widely read for pleasure. She died from illness on July 18, 1817, in Winchester, England. William Blake (1757–1827)
Artist and visionary poet William Blake, born November 28, 1757, in London, England to a hosier, was apprenticed at age fifteen to engraver James Basire, for whom Blake made drawings at Westminster Abbey. In 1783, Blake’s Poetical Sketches were printed, and in 1789, he engraved Thel and The Songs of Innocence. The increasing turmoil caused by the French Revolution and the war between Britain and France influenced Blake to engrave America (1793) and The Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793). In the following year, he produced the combined Songs of Innocence and Experience, Europe, and The First Book of Urizen. In 1803, Blake was accused of sedition (inciting resistance or insurrection against lawful authority). He was tried in 1804 but acquitted of the charge. During this time, he finished Milton and began Jerusalem. However, for the next two decades his life became increasingly despairing, poverty-stricken, and obscure. He was regarded as insane by some observers, and eked out a living by illustrating a pottery catalog and selling his print collection. However, late in his life he found supporters and patrons, and in 1820 Jerusalem was finally engraved. He died August 12, 1827, in London. While he was known primarily as an artist and engraver during his lifetime, Blake became known as an important writer after his death, influencing other poets such as William Butler Yeats.

Lord Byron (1788–1824)
George Gordon Byron was born January 22, 1788, in London, England, inheriting his title of the sixth Lord Byron when he was ten years old. He grew up at the family estate near Nottingham, Newstead Abbey, and received an education at Harrow and Cambridge. His first publication, the first two cantos of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, was based on a tour of Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Turkey he took between 1809 and 1811. The work was immediately successful, and he followed it with a series of tales featuring exotic Middle Eastern settings and hero-villains.

Byron’s marriage to Anne Isabella Milbanke in 1815 lasted only fifteen months, largely due to rumors spread by Byron himself about his homosexuality and incestuous relations with his half-sister Augusta Leigh. In 1816 he left England permanently, undergoing a series of travels which inspired cantos three and four of Childe Harold (1816, 1818). Eventually, he settled in Venice, Italy, where his immersion in the Italian language and culture would have a profound influence on his work, particularly Don Juan (1819–1824). While in Italy, he was the lover of Countess Teresa Guiccioli and became involved with Italian independence movements. In 1823 he went to Greece to...

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