Blupete's Biography Page

The Classical Essayists:

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Addison, Joseph (1672-1719):
The eldest son of a cleric, Addison eventually found himself at Oxford (Queen's and Magdalen). He wrote favourable (whether commissioned, or not) articles concerning certain powerful people and their works; he was duly rewarded with a pension of £300 which allowed Addison to travel extensively throughout the continent for four years. With the victory at Blenheim, in 1704, Addison was commissioned to write The Campaign and this led to further political patronage; he was appointed as a Commissioner of Excise Taxes (the only significant taxes they had in those days). The job as a commissioner, presumably, took little of Addison's time and he was left to pursue his writing. While he had contributed to the Tatler (started by Steele in 1709), Addison started his own paper in 1711, the Spectator ("In the Spectator may be traced the foundations of all that is sound and healthy in modern English thought." [Chambers.]) Addison had a "warm relationship with Swift."

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Belloc, Hilaire (1870-1953):
Bennett, Arnold (1867-1931):
Bierce, Ambrose (1842-1914?):
Birrell, Augustine (1850-1933):
Educated at Cambridge, Birrell was called to the bar in 1875. He became a member of the British parliament in 1889; as the Minister of Education he introduced a major education bill in 1906; he served as the Secretary to Ireland between 1907-16, he resigned after the Sinn Fein rebellion. Chamber's describes him as a person with a "shrewd wit and charming essayist": Benet's, "acute, judicious, and trenchantly witty." Birrell is one of my favourite writers. He has written biographies of Charlotte Bronte, Marvell, and Hazlitt. Among my library books I have a number of Birrell's works. In addition to the biographies on Marvell and Hazlitt, I have, on my shelf: Obiter Dicta (London: Duckworth, 1913), More Obiter Dicta (London: Heinemann, 1924), A Rogue's Memoirs (London: Arthur L. Humphreys, 1912), and his Selected Essays (London: Nelson, 1908).
Boswell, James (1740-1795):
Boswell was originally from Scotland and is chiefly known as the biographer of Samuel Johnson; Boswell's father was an English judge; he was called to the Scottish bar in 1766, and practised for 20 years. He met Johnson in 1763 and made yearly visits to London to see him. It was in 1773 that he made his tour through Scotland with Johnson (he wrote about his travels a year after Johnson's death, 1785, The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL D.). In 1786 he moved to London and joined the bar there, but without much success. "He was renowned as good company, with his lively mind and formidable memory, a man exuberant and melancholy by turns." (Cambridge.) In 1949, a number of his private papers were discovered at Malahide Castle.
Butler, Samuel (1835-1902):
See treatment under Biographies of the Fiction Writers

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Carlyle, Thomas (1795-1881):
Carlyle, Scottish born, was deeply imbued with the belief in the depravity of the human race. An interesting mix of a man: while believing in the power of the individual, especially the strong, heroic leader (the romantic beliefs of the time); he distrusted democracy: and while he hated laissez-faire, and feared what the machines of industrialism would do to man; he distrusted social legislators. Two of his works that might be read with profit are: Heroes and Hero Worship and Sartor Resartus. (For samples of Carlyle's writing see his essay, "On History" and "Trial of Marie-Antoinette.")
Cecil, Lord David (1902-86):
Cecil, a biographer and essayist, was a professor of English at Oxford; he is a very readable writer. One of Lord Cecil's most enjoyable books for me, was his Library Looking-Glass, A Personal Anthology (London: Constable, 1976). He wrote others: Early Victorian Novelists (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1935), Poets & Story-Tellers, A Book of Critical Essays (New York: MacMillan, 1949), The Fine Art of Reading (London: Constable, 1957); Lord Cecil also wrote a number of biographies including ones on Beerbohm, Melburne, and Austen.
Chesterfield, Lord (1694-1773):
Famous for the written advice he gave to his up and coming son on how to succeed in society. Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his Son was made into a book which was one of the favourites of the 19th century.
Chesterton, G. K. (1874-1936):
Supporting the conservative views of Roman Catholicism, Chesterton's writings, - like Hilaire Belloc - were controversial, or polemical; Shaw called the pair, "Chesterbelloc." Figuring I hadn't read Chesterton to any great degree, I recently took in hand Chesterton's A Short History of England (1917). While I kept thinking, "I am bound to get something out of this work"; but no, not so much. This work requires the reader to have a solid grounding of England's, or for that matter the world's history, taken earlier from other sources. In this work Chesterton's writing is full of contrasts: good is bad; bad is good. I have concluded that his work is like Limburger cheese; one has to acquire a taste for it. (For a further sample of Chesterton's writing see his essay, "French And English.")

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De Quincey, Thomas (1785-1859):
De Quincey's most noteworthy work is Confessions of an English Opium Eater which first appeared in 1821. As an essayist, as Chambers observed, the "brilliance of his articles was marred by an incurable tendency to digress."

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Ellis, Henry Havelock (1859-1939):
Ellis studied medicine at London. His Studies in the Psychology of Sex was the "first detached treatment of the subject unmarred by any guilt feelings, which caused tremendous controversy, but is now largely superseded" by modern studies, beginning with those of Freud." (Chambers.)
Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803-82):
Emerson, from Boston, entered the ministry but gave it up. He settled in Concord, Massachusetts; and became known as "the sage of Concord." He traveled and visited with the major English writers of the time. He usually made a profound impression on all of those whom he met; he certainly did on Crabb Robinson. Robinson who had a general dislike for Americans because of their penchant for using slaves was immediately won over by Emerson: "... in an instant all my dislike vanished. He has one of the most interesting countenances I ever beheld -- a combination of intelligence and sweetness that quite disarmed me. ... He conquers minds as well as hearts wherever he goes." [Diary, Reminiscences and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson (1775-1867) (Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co., 1869).] Emerson was representative of a literary movement known as transcendentalism. Transcendentalism flourished in New England c.1836-60; it was a reaction against Calvinist orthodoxy and Unitarian rationalism. Influenced by the German idealist philosophers (e. g. Kant) transcendentalism was advanced by English authors such as Carlyle, Wordsworth and American authors such as Emerson's friend Thoreau. Its tenets included a belief in God's immanence, and in man and nature, and in individual intuition as the highest source of knowledge. An optimistic philosophy, it emphasized individualism, self-reliance, and rejection of traditional authority. Unlike Carlyle -- with whom Emerson had "a lasting and significant friendship," and who was "deeply imbued with the belief in the depravity of the human race" -- Emerson never weakened in his optimism. Emerson and his group went beyond simply "stressing the essential unity of all things"; this doctrine went beyond pantheism as developed by Spinoza, it allowed for the existence of a "Supreme Mind," or "Over-soul," and that "man's soul" was, somehow, a reflection of this divinity. Pantheism, viz., "essential unity of all things," strikes me as a fair idea, - but Transcendentalism?
Emerson's works can be found on the 'net' : hisEssays wherein Emerson deals with such topics as love, prudence, heroism, intellect, art, the poet, experience, character, manners, gifts, nature, politics, etc.; and, so too, is Emerson's Representative Men wherein he deals with Plato, Swedenborg, Montaigne, Shakspeare, Napoleon & Goethe.

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Gilfillan, George (1813-78):
Gilfillan is more a biographer than an essayist. He was 13 years old when his father died. From Scotland, Gilfillan entered Glasgow College and studied for the ministry. At age 24 Gilfillan was appointed as a minister for a congregation at Dundee (£220 a year and a manse); he continued as such until his death. Gilfillan was to became acquainted with the Edinburgh Reviewers (such as Brougham and Smith). He contributed to periodicals such as Blackwood; he eventually compiled, A Gallery of Literary Portraits which, at his own expense, was published in 1840. With the help of Carlyle and Carlyle's friends (Emerson and Longfellow being two) the book received a hearty reception both in England and in America. After his book he went on the lecture circuit. He published two further editions of Gallery, 1849 and 1854. Gilfillan was a booster of Shelley, Hazlitt, and Lamb; he was not a fan of Macaulay or of Tennyson ("second rank poet".)

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Harrison, Frederic (1831-1923):
Attending Oxford, Harrison became a tutor there. He was called to the bar in 1853 and practised conveyancing and in the Courts of Equity. He was "a positivist" (see Comte). and an "advanced Liberal."
Hazlitt, Henry (1894-1993)
See Biographies of the Economists.
Hazlitt, William (1778-1830):
Hemingway, Ernest (1899-1961):
While, in his early career as a newspaperman, Hemingway's fame rests as a novelist; see Biographies of the Fiction Writers.
Holmes, Oliver Wendell (1809-94):
American physician, professor and man of letters, Holmes is a very readable writer. Read any of Holmes' Breakfast-Table series, but his best was his first, The Autocrat of The Breakfast-Table (1858) a book in which one will find many of his wise sayings (and, too, his poem, "The Chambered Nautilus"). (Incidentally, there were two famous persons with the name Oliver Wendall Holmes: one the father, the doctor; and the other and the son, Mr. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) a judge of the United States Supreme Court (1902-1935). The lawyer should extend his reading from the father to the son. (For a sample of Holmes' prose, see his essay, "My Last Walk With The Schoolmistress.")
Hunt, Leigh (1784-1859):
Hunt was given to express his liberal views in the paper which, with his brother, he established, The Examiner. The government was of the view, in these years of war with Napoleon, that the Hunt brothers went over the line. Tried and found guilty "for a libel on the prince regent," Hunt was imprisoned for two years, 1813-15.
Huxley, Thomas Henry (1825-1895):
An English biologist and teacher, Thomas Huxley was a defender of Darwin ("Darwin's Bulldog"). "There are those who hold the name of Professor Huxley as synonymous with irreverence and atheism. Plato was so held, and Galileo's and Descartes, and Newton, and Faraday. There can be no greater mistake. No man has greater reverence for the Bible than Huxley. No one had more acquaintance with the text of scripture. He believes there is definite government of the universe; that pleasures and pains are distributed in accordance with law; and that the certain proportion of evil woven up in the life even of worms will help the man who thinks to bear his own share with courage." (Tyndall's Fragments, advertisement.) We have, here at, a sample of Huxley's writing: see "Science And Culture."

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Irving, Washington (1783-1859):
Irving was born in New York. Irving, as many well to do young people did at the time, after his formal education, traveled throughout the European continent (1804-06). On his return, Irving was admitted to the bar. In time Irving was to serve as an officer in the war of 1812. All along he wrote, mostly humorous stories and biographies. During the years 1819-20 Irving wrote under the pseudonym, Geoffrey Crayon. His The Sketch Book, a miscellany, there was included "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." During the 1820s Irving traveled and wrote extensively about Europe. In 1831, he came over from Spain to hold down a diplomatic position for the U.S. at London; but, not for long. Returning to the States, and having suffered from criticism that he ignored America in his travels and writings, Irving made an attempt to satisfy his critics by publishing, in 1832, A Tour of the Prairie. Irving, in an appointment that topped his career, was to serve as the U.S.'s ambassador to Spain, 1842-46. (For more on Washington Irving, see Thackeray's essay, "Nil Nisi Bonum.")

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Johnson, Samuel (1709-84):
English lexicographer, critic and poet, the son of a bookseller, Dr. Johnson attended Oxford, but left in "little over a year before poverty and perhaps insult drove him into the career of petty school-mastering. ... In 1737 he came up to London." Dr. Johnson is likely best known for his dictionary of the English Language; this work took Johnson eight years to compile beginning in 1747. The Johnson dictionary I have (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1994) is a reprint of Todd's edition. Dr. Johnson's best literary work is likely his, Lives Of The English Poets. Others: Rasselas (which is on the 'net), Lives of Eminent Persons; and A Journey to the Western Islands. Best, however, if you want to know more about Johnson that you check out Boswell's biography, one of the most famous ever written, of anyone.

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Lamb, Charles ("Elia") (1775-1834):
Lamb's writing is known for its "humor, whimsy, and faint overtones of pathos." (Benets.) Hazlitt thought Lamb to be "the most delightful, the most provoking, the most witty and sensible of men."
Landor, Walter Savage (1775-1864):
Landor - "forced to leave Oxford because of his opinions" - raised a regiment, and, in 1807, went off to Spain to fight Napoleon. It is surprising to read this, for, Birrell, in his work on Hazlitt, said: "Between Hazlitt and Landor there were obvious resemblances. Both hated kings far better than they loved peoples. ... Both men had idolized Napoleon ... " Landor lived in Italy for a number of years (it was in Florence, 1824±, that Hazlitt met Landor; and, so, too, for Henry Crabb Robinson, in 1831). By 1838 Landor was living at Bath. Dickens, in his novel, Bleak House, models Mr. Boythorn after Landor.
Leacock, Stephen (1869-1944):
Born in England, Leacock came to Canada at a young age and grew up on a farm in the Lake Simcoe area of Ontario. Before moving on to teaching at a university, Leacock - it should be a prerequisite of all university professors - taught in a regular school system for ten years. In 1906, Leacock wrote his first book, Elements of Political Science; it was to become a standard collage textbook. In 1908, he went to Montreal's McGill, heading up its new department of Political Economy; he continued his association with McGill until his death. A humorous, -- in the vein of Haliburton, Dickens and Twain -- Leacock wrote his first humorous work, Literary Lapses in 1910; he subsequently wrote a humorous book, once a year, for the rest of his life. He spent his summer vacations on the shores of Lake Couchiching in Orillia, Ontario, his Mariposa, the little town in the Sunshine Sketches. Leacock had the gift, as he described it, of "liquefied loquacity" and he strove always to apply to the life he saw around him "the genial corrective of the humorous point of view." As Dr. Gerhard R. Lomer, Librarian of McGill University, pointed out in his index of Leacock's writings (Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1954), Leacock, in his writings, touched upon an astonishing number of topics, including the "pompous politician and the bulky businessman." While Leacock is best remembered for his humorous stories, his best writing, in my view, is to be found in his more serious works, as, for example, The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice (New York: John Lane, 1920) and Our Heritage of Liberty (London: Bodley Head, 1942).
Lippmann, Walter (1889-1974):
Educated at Harvard, Lippmann was a journalist, and won many awards, such as the Pulitzer for International Reporting in 1962. Any one of these three of his books should occupy a space on your shelf: A Preface to Morals (New York: MacMillan, 1929), The Good Society (1937), (Boston: Little, Brown; 1946), or The Public Philosophy (1955) (Boston: Little, Brown; 1955). As for The Good Society: "The latter part of the book is marred by an inconsistent support of an apparently Keynesian type of 'monetary management.' But the first half is an penetrating as it is eloquent." (Henry Hazlitt.)
Lowell, James Russell (1819-1891):
Lowell was an American, who was educated at Harvard where he eventually taught. He was an abolitionist and gave himself unreservedly to the cause of freedom.

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Macaulay, Thomas Babington (1800-1859):
Admitted to the bar in 1826, Macaulay turned to literature. Known as a Whig writer, Macaulay's style is the perfection of clearness, not an ambiguous sentence is to be found throughout his works, brilliant language; Thackeray referred to him as a master with a "prodigious memory and vast learning ... He reads twenty books to write a sentence; he travels a hundred miles to make a line of description." (For more on Macaulay, see Thackeray's essay, "Nil Nisi Bonum." And for samples of Macaulay's writing, see, the essays which we have put up online: "The Task of the Modern Historian," "Machiavelli, "The Puritans," "Impeachment Of Warren Hastings" and "Dr. Johnson And His Times.")
McLuhan, Marshall (1911-80):
McLuhan was born at Edmonton; studied at Manitoba and at Cambridge; and taught at Toronto. McLuhan held controversial views, including: that it was the media, itself, which influenced society and not the information and ideas which it disseminates. For McLuhan, printing drove men apart; because men, with the printed word, became less dependant on one another; made men "more introspective, individualistic and self centred." I'm not sure whether McLuhan imagined that people by the beginning of the 21st century, would be interconnected by computers, viz., the internet; and whether the internet would, like printing, drive men even further apart, or reverse the process and draw people back into groups once again?
Mencken, H. L. (1880-1956):
"The Bad Boy from Baltimore," a newspaperman renowned for his tough, rather cynical style and wit, editor of The American Mercury and The Smart Set. "Booboisie" was a term coined by Mencken, meaning the totems of society which such as he and his mentor, Ambrose Bierce hacked away at: anything that could be associated with wealth, authority and privilege. His The American Language (1919) (New York: Knopf, 1937) is now a classic, and I found his Selected Prejudices (New York: Knopf, 1927) a delightful read. His A New Dictionary of Quotations(1942) (New York: Knopf, 1991) is a book which should be on any reference shelf. He was, as I have already noted, the editor of The American Mercury and just recently I discovered a reprint of Mencken's work as might be found in the magazine from January to April, 1924 (Blauvelt, N.Y.: Freedeeds Books, 1984).
Montaigne (1533-1592).
Montaigne is the first and foremost essayist in all literature. It was Montaigne who said, "I determine nothing; I do not comprehend things; I suspend judgment; I examine."
Morley, John (1838-1923):
While called to the bar, Morley chose literature as a profession. He was the editor of the Fortnightly Review and the Pall Mall Gazette. Morley was a conspicuous supporter of Gladstone. Morley was an admirer of Mill, Cobden and Bright.
Muggeridge, Malcolm (1903- ):
Muggeridge was the former editor of Punch, and became a well know critic and lecturer. His father was an ardent pioneer Socialist. Muggeridge attended Cambridge University. He married a niece of Beatrice and Sidney Webb, well known socialists. He ran with the social élite of the left and joined the Manchester Guardian, "dispensing the pure word of Liberalism." Eventually, he and his wife went off (I believe it was in the 1930s) to Russia, and retreated, after a season, "in through disillusionment." During WWII Muggeridge was with British intelligence.
Muir, John (1838-1914):
Born in Scotland, Muir moved with his family, in 1849, to the American frontier, Wisconsin. His formal education was well short of a degree. As a young man he turned to wondering the northern parts of the Midwest. He became a man of nature, convinced that nature was in a perpetual state of incompletion. One of Muir's acquaintances (Young) wrote of Muir: "From cluster to cluster of flowers he ran, falling on his knees, babbling in unknown tongues, prattling a curious mixture of scientific mixture of scientific lingo and baby talk, worshipping his little blue-and-pink goddesses." Muir was known for his loquaciousness, known for his eloquent speech; he would give monologues lasting for hours, keeping his listeners spellbound. By 1867, Muir was keeping a journal of his travels; over a period of 40 years he was to fill 60 journals. His entries were helter-skelter but it made sense to him and they were to be a great resource to him when he turned to formal writing in his later years. Muir understood early the necessity of getting government to declare parts of the wilderness as special preserves. He courted politicians. (One of his favourite ways of raising the interest of politicians was to bring them on camping trips.) In 1892, he co-founded the Sierra Club and for 22 years thereafter he served as its president. Muir's first book was The Mountains of California (1894); thereafter came 11 books before his death.

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Paterson, Isabel (1886-1961):
Born on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, a farm girl with no formal education (she was a voracious reader and had contempt for the educated who never took the time to read the great classics), Paterson by 18 was working as a waitress. She progressed and soon found herself working up into secretarial positions (she worked for a lawyer in Alberta, R. B. Bennett, who, in 1930, became the Prime Minister of Canada). She was married for a few years, early on, but basically she led a single life throughout her years. She seem to travel around as easily in the United States as she did in Canada; her later years were spent in the states. She turned to writing and eventually made a pretty good living as a journalist (she did write a few fictional novels, but apparently they were not successful). I guess one could compare Paterson to H. L. Mencken, a person whom she knew and with whom she shared many of the same ideas. She wrote for the Herald Tribune from 1924 to 1949, a paper which "retired her"; she was of the view that she was fired (she became quite cantankerous in her later years). I her book, The God of the Machine (1943) Paterson examined the question: "What type of social structure makes productive activity possible?"

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Rabelais, Francois (c1494-c1553):
Rabelais, the French satirist, though at first a novice in the Franciscan order, was to become a physician and a lawyer. Pantagruel is a work where serious ideas are set forth side by side with overwhelming nonsense. "The riotous license of his mirth has made Rabelais as many enemies as his wisdom has made him friends, yet his works remain the most astonishing treasury of wit, wisdom, common-sense and satire that the world has ever seen." (Chambers.)
Rochefoucauld, François, duc de La (1613-80):
As the head of an ancient family, Rochefoucauld opposed Richelieu, thus his Mémoires (1662) are of historical interest. His place, however, in French literature, rests on the Maxims (1665), a collection of several hundred lucid and polished moral maxims expressing his pessimistic view that selfishness is the source of all human behavior.
Robinson, Henry "Crabb" (1775-1867):
English lawyer and diarist.
Ruskin, John (1819-1900):
Ruskin was the son of a prosperous wine merchant. He received private tutoring until, in 1836, he went up to Christ Church, Oxford. He became an art critic and was thought to be socially strange by many ("his crotchets and eccentricities"). He became a Professor of fine arts at Oxford. Ruskin became upset with what he perceived to be the social injustice and squalor which he thought came about as a result of unbridled capitalism; he protested the law of supply and demand; he approved the mediaeval injunction against interest.

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Seldes, George (1890-1995):
"One of the great muckraking journalists," Seldes, starting as a cub reporter for The Pittsburgh Leader, ended up being an international correspondent with the Chicago Tribune. In his work, most likely his most recent and last, Witness to a Century, Seldes gives his views as a a reporter who had interviewed a number of the movers and shakers of the early 20th century, including: Trotsky, Einstein, Freud, Lenin, Shaw, Roosevelt, Hover, Tito, and Mussolini (New York: Ballantine, 1987). I picked up Seldes' The Great Thoughts (Ballantine, 1985) at an airport just before flying off on a vacation; I took notes, and on my return I followed up on the original works, good works, - a sea of good works, over which I have shaped my course. I owe a lot to this book.
Shaw, Geo. Bernard (1856-1950).
Smiles, Samuel (1812-1904):
This Scottish author was more the biographer than essayist. His most famous work was, Self Help (1859). ("Its short Lives of great men and the admonition 'Do thou likewise,' was a favorite Victorian schoolprize.") In addition to Self Help, I happen to have Smiles' Life of George Stephenson (1857), and his The Huguenots in France (1903).
Smith, Sydney (1771-1845):
Smith, with Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850), Francis Horner (1778-1817) & Brougham, founded the Edinburgh Review. I am fortunate in that I have, in my library, The Selected Writings of Sydney Smith; edited, with an introduction by W. H. Auden (poet, 1907-73) (New York: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy, 1956).
Southey, Robert (1774-1843):
Steele, Sir Richard (1672-1729):
Born in Dublin, educated at Oxford (Merton College), Steele turned to writing. He founded one of the very first newspapers, the Tatler which ran from April 1709 to January, 1711. The Tatler was published on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays so as to catch the out going post-coaches. The paper had the occasional article on literature (usually written by Addison) but it featured Steele's writing which concentrated on "social comedy," the "affections and vices of society," a much riskier form of writing. In 1713, Steele entered parliament but was expelled the following year because of a pamphlet he wrote favouring the Hanoverian succession. Of course, George the First did take the crown in 1714; and, so, Addison was soon to come back in favour. (Steele never did have the continuing good fortune that Addison had in his career.) Steele ran in to some political difficulty later in his career and the living of a writer in those days (and maybe yet today) was very much dependant on the patronage of the rich and the powerful. In time, Steele's financial situation became precarious, such that he removed himself from high society and retired to Wales in 1722, where he died in 1729.
Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850-94):
Born in Edinburgh, Stevenson went there to university; first studying engineering, he switched to law and became an "advocate" in 1875; however, it seems, Stevenson spent most of his time traveling, reading and writing. It has been said, that, in his writing, Stevenson imitated Montaigne and William Hazlitt. In 1888, Stevenson settled in Samoa and spent the last five years of his life there, on his estate, Valima. Stevenson is an example of how one can become a good writer; one way is to read books; it is said Stevenson read thousands of books. Like Leacock, Stevenson is best remembered for his stories, such as Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Kidnapped; but, like Leacock's, Stevenson's best writing (again, in my view) is to be found in his works on more serious topics, such as for example: Virginibus Puerisque (1881) (London: Heinemann, 1924), Familiar Studies of Men & Books (London: Heinemann, 1924), and Essays Literary & Critical (London: Heinemann, 1924). Stevenson, I might add, was a poet, one of my favourites: see "The Unfathomable Sea," "Christmas At Sea" and "Requiem."
Stephen, Sir Leslie (1832-1904):
Leslie Stephen was an English biographer and essayist. His grandfather and his brother (James) were noted jurists. He himself attended Eton and eventually finished up at Cambridge with a tutorship. He lost his tutorship at Cambridge in 1864 due to his declarations that he was an agnostic. His most famous essay is "Free Thinking and Plain Speaking." He was very much the athlete; he climbed mountains and walked great distances. He was to become the editor of the first 26 volumes of Dictionary of National Biography (1885-91). Leslie Stephen was to write up the results of his studies he made on the writings of Samuel Johnson (1878), Pope (1880), Swift (1882), and George Eliot (1902). His daughter was Virginia Woolf. Studies of A Biographer (Gibbon, Wordsworth, Scott, Arnold, Holmes, Tennyson, Pascal, Browning, Donne, Ruskin, Godwin, Bagehot, Huxley, Froude, etc.) is the compact three volume work of Sir Leslie's which I have on my shelf.
Strachey, Lytton (1880-1932):
Strachey was a member of the Bloomsbury group. In my library I have: Books and Characters (1922) in which Strachey deals with Shakespeare, Voltaire, Rousseau, Blake, et al.; Portraits in Miniature and Other Essays (1931) (Congreve, Macaulay, Hume, Gibbon, Carlyle, Froude, Creighton); and his most noted work, Eminent Victorians (1918) (Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Dr. Arnold and General Gordon). Bertrand Russell observed, "His style is unduly rhetorical ... He [Strachey] is indifferent to historical truth and will always touch up the picture to make the lights and shades more glaring and the folly or wickedness of famous people more obvious." [Autobiography of Bertrand Russell (1872-1914) (Boston: Little, Brown; 1967) at p. 99.]

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Thoreau, Henry David (1817-1862):
Thoreau was a man of "simple and high thinking" and his writings proved to have more of an impact on the men of the 20th century than the men of his own century, the 19th, for instance Gandhi became convinced, by reading Thoreau, of the rightness of the principle of passive resistance and civil disobedience.

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Walpole, Horace (1717-97):
"Walpole's literary reputation rests chiefly upon his letters, which deal, in the most vivacious way, with party politics, foreign affairs, literature, art and gossip. His firsthand accounts of such events as the Jacobite trials and the Gordon Riots, are invaluable." (Chambers.) Though shorter versions are available, the work I possess consists of many volumes of Walpole's Letters (Edinburgh, John Grant, 1904-6).
Walton, Izaak (1593-83):
Izaak Walton, the English writer, spent the last of his years at Winchester and died there. The work he will forever be known for is his, Complete Angler, or the Contemplative Man's Recreation (1653). In it, he gives forth "a discourse of fishes, of English rivers, of fishponds, and of rods and lines." The work is interspersed with "moral reflections, quaint old verses, songs, and sayings, and idyllic glimpses of country life." It is a book of "perennial charm." (Chambers.)
Webb, Sidney (1859-1947) and Beatrice Webb (1858-1943).
Wilkes, John (1727-97):
Wilkes was to become a Member of the English Parliament. He was to run afoul of the authorities, when, in 1763, he attacked government policy in the weekly journal which he had founded, North Briton. He was arrested and committed to the Tower. A court determined that his arrest was unconstitutional and Wilkes was released (he successfully sued for damages). "The present liberty of the press owes much to his [Wilkes'] efforts." (Chambers.)



2012 (2024)

Peter Landry