Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective, does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.
Britain is definitely the birthplace of most of the most famous and great writers in human history. Among them there are both geniuses recognized during their lifetime, and those whose talent was appreciated only years after their death. We bring to your attention a selection of the very best of the dozens of the best.
- Geniuses of the literary word: the best British writers and poets
- Classics of English literature
- William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
- George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)
- Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
- John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
- William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
- Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
- Geniuses of the first half of the 20th century
- Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
- William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
- Agatha Christie (1890-1976)
- George Orwell (1903-1950)
- H.G. Wells
- Geniuses of the second half of the 20th century
- John Ronald Ruel Tolkien (1892-1973)
- William Golding (1911-1993)
- Kazuo Ishiguro (1954)
- John Fowles (1926-2005)
Geniuses of the literary word: the best British writers and poets
|CLASSICS OF ENGLISH LITERATURE||William Shakespeare (1564-1616)||Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, King Henry IV|
|Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)||Portrait of Dorian Gray, Storybook The Canterville Ghost, The Ideal Husband|
|George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)||Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Don Juan, Oriental Poems, Gyaur|
|Charles Dickens (1812-1870)||The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, The Life of David Copperfield as Told by Imsamim|
|John Galsworthy (1867-1933)||Forsyte Saga, Justice, Dark Flower|
|William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)||Vanity Fair, Virginians, Newcomes, Book of Snobs, Pendennis|
|George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)||Pygmalion, The Devil's Apprentice, The Heartbreak House, Caesar and Cleopatra, The Widower's Houses, Mrs. Warren's Profession|
|Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)||Heart of Darkness, Typhoon, Lord Jim|
|Geniuses of the first half of the 20th century||Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)||Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four, etc.), Study in crimson, The Lost World, The White Squad|
|William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)||Burden of human passions, Moon and penny, Theater|
|Agatha Christie (1890-1976)||The Mousetrap, Murder on the Orient Express, Ten Little Indians, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Death Comes at the End, Death on the Nile|
|George Orwell (1903-1950)||1984, Animal Farm|
|H.G. Wells||Time Machine, Invisible Man, War of the Worlds|
|Geniuses of the second half of the 20th century||John Ronald Ruel Tolkien (1892-1973)||The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion|
|William Golding (1911-1993)||Lord of the Flies, Visible Darkness, Heirs|
|Kazuo Ishiguro (1954)||Rest of the day, Artist of a shaky world, Inconsolable, When we were orphans, Don't let me go, Where the hills are in the haze, Buried giant|
|John Fowles (1926-2005)||Collector, Magus, Mistress of the French Lieutenant, Ebony Tower, etc.|
Classics of English literature
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Key works: 'Romeo and Juliet', 'Hamlet', 'Othello', 'Macbeth', 'King Lear', 'King Henry IV', 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.
One of the greatest playwrights not only in British but also in world history. The creative legacy of this genius, recognized during his lifetime, is incredibly multifaceted, distinguished by colorful characters, subtle psychology of the plot and is popular even after several centuries. No other writer can boast of such frequent performances of his plays around the world.
There is incredibly little information about Shakespeare's life. Skeptics and ill-wishers claimed that he was an uneducated redneck (despite the fact that the writer's works amaze with an excellent vocabulary and depth of historical knowledge). It is only known for certain that the theater made the playwright an incredibly rich man (he was a co-owner of the theatrical company 'Lord Chamberlain's Servants') and his creations, according to many researchers, formed the basis of modern English.
Interesting fact. Shakespeare had four grandchildren, but none of them gave birth to heirs, so the family of the great playwright was interrupted pretty quickly.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Key works: 'The Portrait of Dorian Gray', collection of stories 'The Canterville Ghost', 'The Ideal Husband', 'The Importance of Being Earnest'.
The famous writer and poet is considered one of the key representatives of the late Victorian drama, as well as a symbol of aestheticism and European modernism. Oscar Wilde was born into a wealthy, educated family, so he received an excellent education, graduating from Oxford University. While still unknown to anyone, young Wilde quickly gained popularity in a secular environment thanks to his wit, incredibly delicate taste in clothes and charm.
Already the first stories written by the brilliant Irishman and a collection of poetry bring him fame, and the only novel, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, published 9 years later, finally consolidates his glory. Oscar Wilde was known as an incredible esthete, and this was manifested in literally everything: his speech, demeanor, clothes and even in every piece.
A striking example of Wilde's wit and immodesty can be considered one case at a New York airport. When going through customs procedures, when asked if he had items to be declared, Wilde replied: 'I have nothing to declare, except my genius.'
Already at the height of his fame, the writer was accused of sodomy and sentenced to almost 2 years in hard labor. This led to the loss of family, friends, money, the favor of the reading public. After his release, the writer left Britain for France, where he died in agony a couple of weeks later from acute meningitis.
George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)
Key works: 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage', 'Don Juan', 'Oriental Poems', 'Gyaur', etc.
Among all the poets who were presented to the world by Foggy Albion, Byron, perhaps, can be called one of the most significant. Having become popular during his lifetime, the writer seemed to be challenging himself, working incredibly hard and very fruitful. That, however, in no way diminished the quality of the works: they are all distinguished by an amazing subtlety and depth of feelings, lyrical penetration and beauty of the style.
Byron published his first collection of poetry in 1807, and he was mercilessly defeated by criticism in the Edinburgh Review. But the critical article came out only a year after the publication of Byron's collection, which largely influenced the fate of the young man as a poet. Byron himself later wrote that if this criticism appeared immediately after the publication of the collection, perhaps he would have abandoned poetry forever.
And during that year's period of 'silence' in the press, Byron managed to compose '214 pages of the novel, a poem of 380 verses, 660 lines of' Bosworth Field 'and many small poems …' criticism. The success of the satire was colossal and amused the wounded pride of the young poet.
During his short creative life, Byron managed to create many magnificent works that had such a significant impact on poetry in general that even a separate literary genre called 'Byronism' appeared.
Interesting fact. Despite his love of gambling and alcohol, Byron was known as an excellent athlete. Not least due to congenital lameness and a tendency to be overweight, which terrified him, he was seriously fond of swimming, rock climbing, shooting, horse racing, and even liked to box.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Key works: 'The Adventures of Oliver Twist', 'Great Expectations', 'The Life of David Copperfield, Told by Imsamim', 'Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club', 'Bleak House', etc.
One of the greatest English-speaking writers in history, major novelist, essayist, famous novelist of the 19th century. Although Dickens' novels have both a fabulous and a sentimental beginning, his work is considered the standard pinnacle of realism. Having achieved tremendous success during his lifetime, Dickens left a grandiose literary legacy to posterity. Based on the works of the great classic, more than 180 films, TV series and cartoons have been filmed.
Although during his lifetime Dickens managed to become a darling of fate – famous, revered, adored, he worked tirelessly, often bringing himself to almost exhaustion. As his life progressed to decline, the melancholy thought that “the political aristocracy, coupled with … parasitic elements, are killing England” grew stronger in the writer's mind. His works became more severe and, even looking at life through rose-colored glasses of humor, the contours of Dickenson's reality were very sharp.
It's funny that the writer was distinguished by fertility not only in creativity and personal life (he had 10 children), but also in behavior: he had a lot of strange habits. For example, he quite often and completely unexpectedly fell into a trance, every 50 written lines he always drank a sip of hot water, always slept with his head straight to the north. In his own words, he was often visited by ghosts and, in order to get rid of them, he often went for a walk in the crowded streets in the evenings.
John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
Key works: 'The Forsyte Saga', 'Justice', 'The Dark Flower'.
The great novelist and playwright, awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, Galsworthy was born into a very wealthy family, but at the same time was considered an ardent fighter for social justice. In his multifaceted work, he advocated radical changes in the judicial system, the social status of women, the fight for animal rights, etc. When John Galsworthy was awarded the knighthood, he refused it, stating that reformers and writers should not receive awards.
John Galsworthy is the author of 20 novels, 27 plays, 3 poetry collections, more than 170 stories, several essays, several hundred letters, etc. It is noteworthy that the works were more popular during the life of the writer. After his death, interest in the work of Galsworthy fell sharply, he was attacked by Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. But after the successful film adaptation of the cult work of Galsworthy ('The Forsyte Saga') came out in 1967, interest in the writer's works increased again.
Interesting fact. For 10 years, the writer had a secret affair with the wife of his cousin, Ada. When, after the death of his father, Galsworthy gained financial independence, Ada divorced her husband and married the writer.
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
Key works: 'Vanity Fair', 'Virginians', 'Newcomes', 'The Book of Snobs', 'Pendennis', etc.
The genius of the realistic novel, William Thackeray, while still a student at Cambridge, showed remarkable talent for satire, writing his first poem Timbuktu. Leaving the institute, the future writer traveled around Europe for some time, studied the art of painting, which later came in handy: he independently illustrated his works, very subtly conveying the main features of the characters in a caricature.
Thackeray's first novel, Catherine, did not bring him fame. Only after the publication, 5 years later, of the novel Vanity Fair, which later became a cult, did the author gain real fame. Thackeray differed from most contemporary writers in his non-standard view of the plot: a realistic, even pessimistic English life can be traced in his works.
But at the same time, the author managed to portray evil and vice in his characters so skillfully, combining them with humor and clothed in excellent artistry, that the reader involuntarily took a keen interest in them. All Thackeray's novels are full of satire and incredibly objective.
Interesting fact. Already seriously ill, Thackeray began work on his last historical adventure novel, The Day of Duval, but did not manage to finish it. In an obituary dedicated to Thackeray, Charles Dickens called the novel the best work of the writer.
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Key works: 'Pygmalion', 'The Devil's Apprentice', 'House Where Hearts Break', 'Caesar and Cleopatra', 'Widower's House', 'Mrs. Warren's Profession', etc.
Prominent Irish novelist, playwright and Nobel laureate in literature, Shaw is considered the second most popular playwright (after Shakespeare) in British theater. Among his contemporaries, Bernard Shaw was known as a man of remarkable, razor-sharp mind. The playwright became the only person who was awarded both the Nobel Prize and the Oscar (for the script). It is noteworthy that Shaw refused the monetary award for the literary prize, but at the same time accepted the medal.
Few people know that Shaw was seriously fond of boxing and even competed in middleweight competitions. It was thanks to this knowledge that the writer was able to so skillfully convey the necessary atmosphere in his novel 'The Profession of Cashel Byron', where the first boxing teacher of the Show, Ned Donnelly, is presented as the character of Ned Skene.
It is noteworthy that already in the first decade of his activity, Shaw gained fame as a playwright. During his long creative life, Bernard Shaw created 63 plays, several novels, critical works and more than a quarter of a million letters. For the works of the great playwright, a break from the traditional prim morality of that time was typical. The author called things by their proper names and often represented in his works any everyday questions, thereby becoming to some extent a follower of naturalism.
Bernard Shaw's plays were full of not only poignant (even too much for a representative of the Victorian era) humor, but also various topics that developed political, economic and moral issues. The playwright also had psychological plays, works that touch on the problem of the future of humanity. The writer worked almost until the last years of his life, which, by the way, was quite long (Shaw lived 94 years), but only some of the works of that period received widespread public recognition.
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Key works: 'Heart of Darkness', 'Typhoon', 'Lord Jim'.
A descendant of the Polish revolutionary, nee Jozef Kozheniewski, who was born in the Russian Empire (Kiev province), Joseph Konrad went down in history as one of the classics of English literature. Researchers attribute the work of the British writer to neo-romanticism, which is characterized by strong characters, exotic surroundings, stormy, unusual events and an obligatory ideal of feat.
Perhaps his life as a sailor played a role in Konrad's development as a writer. He spent several years as a sailor on various ships, then became a second mate, and finally received a captain's certificate almost simultaneously with British citizenship. Soon he wrote his first story, 'The Black Navigator'.
In 1890, Konrad made an impressive journey along the Congo River as captain of the steamer Rua de Belge. During this period, he fell ill with malaria and rheumatism, which further undermined his health. At the same time, it is African adventures and impressions that will later form the basis of his most famous work – the adventure story 'Heart of Darkness'.
Interesting fact. One of the main works in the work of Konrad 'Heart of Darkness' is reflected in modern culture. Taking this novel as a basis, director Francis Ford Coppola created the cult film Apocalypse Now, moving the action during the Vietnam War and making the main characters military.
Geniuses of the first half of the 20th century
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Key works: all works related to the famous Sherlock Holmes ('The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes', 'The Dog of the Baskervilles', 'The Sign of Four', etc.), 'Study in crimson tones', 'The Lost World', 'White Squad', etc. .
The brightest representative of Gothic literature, the author of numerous works of the historical, humorous, detective and sci-fi genre, Conan Doyle became the creator of the classic literary characters – the detective Sherlock Holmes, Professor Challenger, Officer Gerard.
Arthur Conan Doyle's contemporaries noted not only as an incredibly well-mannered and gallant man, but also as a versatile personality. The writer led an active lifestyle, was fond of power sports (although billiards was invariably his favorite sport), he even became a volunteer tester of one of the first prototypes of motorcycles.
In the legendary 'Notes on Sherlock Holmes', the writer used hitherto unknown forensic methods. Only after the book was published did the police take them into service.
Interesting fact. It was Conan Doyle who pioneered the inflatable liferafts and body armor. In addition, he was the first person to suggest digging the current tunnel between France and Britain.
William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
Key works: 'The Burden of Human Passions', 'The Moon and a Penny', 'Theater'.
The British writer is deservedly considered one of the brightest and most influential prose writers and playwrights of the 30s. During his long life, Maugham wrote 78 books, theaters staged more than 30 of his plays. The future master of the literary word was born into a family of hereditary lawyers, but he did not plan to connect his life with the legal profession: he studied philosophy and literature at the institute. Then he began to try himself in the literary field.
Maugham wrote his first work in 1897 (the novel Lisa of Lambeth), but success came to him only in 1907 after staging the play Lady Frederick. The writer traveled widely, drawing his inspiration from new cultures and environments. After 11 years of fruitful writing, Maugham could already afford to buy a villa on the French Riviera. It became his home and one of the most influential literary and social salons of the time.
Interesting fact. During the First World War, the writer collaborated with British intelligence (MI-5) and in 1917 was sent to the Russian Empire to help the Provisional Government. After the start of the October Revolution and, accordingly, the unsuccessful completion of the mission, he left the country through Sweden.
Agatha Christie (1890-1976)
Key works: 'The Mousetrap', 'Murder on the Orient Express', 'Ten Little Indians', 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd', 'Death Comes at the End', 'Death on the Nile', etc.
An unsurpassed master of detective prose, playwright, one of the most published authors in history (according to this criterion, Christie is second only to the Bible and Shakespeare's works). During her life, Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa, Lady Mallowen, and that was the name of the famous writer (Christie is the name of her first husband), published 60 novels (including 6 psychological ones), 19 collections of stories, 16 plays. He is the creator of the legendary detective characters – Hercule Poirot and Mrs. Marple.
One of the plays – 'The Mousetrap' – became a kind of record holder: since the first production in 1952, it was this play that was staged in the theater the maximum number of times (it is still staged). Although Christie herself claimed that 'The Mousetrap' is not her favorite play.
As a child, Agatha dreamed of being an opera singer and composer, but as she grew up, she changed her mind and decided to work as a pharmacist. Having married a second time, Christie traveled a lot to the East (her husband was an archaeologist, specialist in Central Asia), often drove a car, flew an airplane, loved to ride, but gained fame thanks to the revolution in the detective genre. Although, even after becoming a famous writer, she considered her work only a hobby.
George Orwell (1903-1950)
Key works: '1984', 'Animal Farm'.
The famous novelist, poet, publicist (real name Eric Arthur Blair), author of the acclaimed dystopian novel '1984'. It was he who coined the term Cold War. An ardent opponent of totalitarianism in any of its manifestations, a convinced supporter of civil socialism, until the last days, believed that a socialist is a person striving to overthrow tyranny, and not the one who contributes to its formation.
During his short creative life, Orwell managed to be a literary critic, leading on the American BBC channel, published a number of serious sociological and cultural studies, published 16 poems, which few people know about. Oruel was among the volunteers, having gone to Spain when the civil war broke out there, but after six months of fighting he was wounded in the throat by a fascist sniper and nearly lost his life.
Interesting fact. As a young man, Orwell adored the works of H.G. Wells, but as he became a famous writer, he began to criticize him. Offended Wells sent Orwell a letter, in which he actually demanded that he reread his early works with special attention.
Key works: 'Time Machine', 'The Invisible Man', 'War of the Worlds'.
A writer with an incredibly vivid imagination who managed to create creations, the main ideas of which were decades ahead of their time. Wells successfully worked in many literary genres, but it was his fantastic works that brought him world fame. H.G. Wells stated that our space is four-dimensional 10 years before this theory was voiced by Albert Einstein. He also described the atomic bomb 30 years before its invention, predicted the Second World War, the flight to the moon, the invention of wireless communication, and much more.
Interesting fact. In 1938, during the War of the Worlds radio show in the United States, there was a massive panic: American radio listeners decided that they were reporting from the scene.
In 1923, the genius science fiction writer was the first to introduce the theme of parallel worlds into literature. He also mentioned in his works invisibility, anti-gravity, etc. Although such ideas were not an end in itself for the author, but only a technique that helped to brighten up the social problems of society. For example, in his 'Time Machine', Wells moved away from the theme of fantasy, focusing on realism. After the transition to realism, his works became much less popular over time.
Geniuses of the second half of the 20th century
John Ronald Ruel Tolkien (1892-1973)
Key works: 'The Hobbit, or There and Back Again', 'The Lord of the Rings', 'The Silmarillion'.
Legendary writer, philologist, translator, linguist, professor of the Anglo-Saxon language. The creator of a new literary genre – epic fantasy. Of course, before Tolkien, there were also authors who wrote in the fantasy genre, but it was he who had a strong influence on this literary movement, so he is considered the 'father' of high fantasy. In 2008, The Times listed him as the '50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945', ranking him 6th.
Returning from the First World War, Tolkien devoted himself exclusively to a scientific career. He was considered one of the youngest Oxford professors (he was at that time 30 years old) and was soon recognized as one of the best philologists in the world. It was during this period that he began work on a whole cycle of legends and myths of Middle-earth, which would later become the 'Silmarillion', published posthumously by the writer's son.
For his children, the writer began to compose fairy tales, and then systematized them and wrote down on paper The Hobbit, published in 1937. The work was a success, so Tolkien's publisher suggested that he write a sequel. But work on 'The Lord of the Rings' dragged on for as long as 16 years. Published in 1954, the book was an overwhelming success, which surprised the publisher and the author himself.
Interesting fact. In the 1920s, Tolkien undertook to translate an epic British poem, presumably from the 7th or 8th century, the oldest piece of literature in 'barbarian' Europe that has survived to this day. The writer finished the work, but did not publish it. The poem still saw the light of day almost 90 years after its completion: the writer's son, who edited his father's work for a long time, published it in 2014.
William Golding (1911-1993)
Key works: 'Lord of the Flies', 'Visible Darkness', 'Heirs'.
A respected British writer, Nobel Prize laureate in literature, creator of 12 novels, the first of which, Lord of the Flies, is considered one of the most significant works in world literature of the 20th century.
It took young Golding 2 years to study the natural sciences after enrolling in Braise College, Oxford University, to understand the erroneousness of his choice and change the curriculum, focusing on literature. It was his interest in the English language, coupled with his enthusiasm for antiquity, that later determined the basis of his serious works.
While at Oxford University, Golding began writing poetry. One of his friends made a collection of them and published them. Subsequently, the young writer regretted that the collection was published (although the poems were excellent). Once he even acquired one copy and destroyed it (later he found out that he destroyed the collectible value).
Golding's first novel (Lord of the Flies) was rejected by 21 publishers, and the 22nd was published by an aspiring author. As a result, the creation of the British became truly iconic, bringing him worldwide fame.
Kazuo Ishiguro (1954)
Key works: 'The Rest of the Day', 'The Artist of a Shaky World', 'Inconsolable', 'When We Were Orphans', 'Don't Let Me Go', 'Where the Hills Are in the Haze', 'The Buried Giant'.
The writer was born in Japan, but when he was 5 years old, he and his parents moved to the UK, where Kazuo's father was invited to research oceanographic work. Ishiguro graduated from the University of Kent, then became a Master of Arts at the University of East Anglia. The writer began his literary career in 1981, publishing 3 short stories.
For his debut novel, 'Where the Hills in the Haze', the writer was awarded the Winifred Holtby Prize. His second novel, The Artist of a Shaky World, was the British Book of the Year. The third ('The Rest of the Day') was awarded the Booker Prize. Critics believed that the Japanese managed to write “one of the most English novels of the 20th century.” Based on the novel, the sensational film 'The End of the Day' was filmed with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.
Ishiguro is the lyricist of several songs by jazz singer Stacy Kent. It is noteworthy that after graduating from high school, Ishiguro traveled throughout Canada and the United States, working part-time in nightclubs and at the same time looking for a producer who would help him start a music career. Giving interviews many years later, he said that this experience greatly influenced his life.
John Fowles (1926-2005)
Key works: 'The Collector', 'The Magus', 'The Mistress of the French Lieutenant', 'The Ebony Tower', etc.
The famous novelist, essayist, the brightest representative of literary postmodernism. For a long time, Fowles taught at the University of Poitiers (France), then worked in Greece, where he met his future wife, who became his faithful companion for 35 years. She had a significant impact on Fowles' personality and became the prototype for many of his heroines.
In 1963, the aspiring writer published his first novel, The Collector. And after a couple of years he was filmed. The success of the book gave Fowles the opportunity to leave teaching and devote himself to literature. At the end of the 60s, 2 more novels of the writer were published, striking in their audacity of design and an excellent manner of narration.
Fowles was considered a closed man, led a rather closed lifestyle, rarely appearing at social events. The writer has always preferred a quiet, homely environment to a noisy environment.