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English Literature Timeline

  • Period: 450 to 1066

    Old English (Anglo-Saxon) Period

    This period of literature dates back to their invasion (along with the Jutes) of Celtic England circa 450. A lot of the prose during this time was a translation of something else or otherwise legal, medical, or religious in nature; however, some works, such as Beowulf and those by period poets Caedmon and Cynewulf, are important.
  • 731

    The Venerable Bede

    The Venerable Bede
    He is well known as an author, teacher (a student of one of his pupils was Alcuin), and scholar, and his most famous work, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, gained him the title "The Father of English History".
  • 800


    Beowulf is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3,182 alliterative lines. It is one of the most important works of Old English literature.
  • 950

    The Eddas

    The Eddas
    "Edda" is an Old Norse term that has been attributed by modern scholars to the collective of two Medieval Icelandic literary works: what is now known as the Prose Edda and an older collection of poems without an original title now known as the Poetic Edda.
  • 1066

    Norman Invasion 1066

    Norman Invasion 1066
    The fate of English literature was largely influenced by Frenchmen from the North, invading the rainy, wet piece of land that was England. The Norman Invasion was cultivated after the death of King Edward and his 23 year-long reign.
  • Period: 1066 to 1500

    The Middle English period

    The Middle English period sees a huge transition in the language, culture, and lifestyle of England and results in what we can recognize today as a form of “modern” (recognizable) English.
  • 1300

    Duns Scotus

    Duns Scotus
    Scotus's great work is his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, which contains nearly all the philosophical views and arguments for which he is well known, including the univocity of being, the formal distinction, less than numerical unity, individual nature or "thisness" (haecceity
  • 1301

    Gawain Poet (anonymous)

    Gawain Poet (anonymous)
    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a late 14th-century Middle English chivalric romance. It is one of the best known Arthurian stories, with its plot combining two types of folk motifs, the beheading game and the exchange of winnings.
  • 1370

    William Langland.

    William Langland.
    Piers Plowman or Visio Willelmi de Petro Ploughman (William's Vision of Piers Plowman) is a Middle English allegorical narrative poem by William Langland.
  • 1385

    Geoffrey Chaucer

    Geoffrey Chaucer
    Geoffrey Chaucer was an English poet and author. Widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages, he is best known for The Canterbury Tales
  • 1400

    Robert Henryson

    Robert Henryson
    The thirteen moral fables of Robert Henryson is one of Robert Henryson's greatest poems, his Morall Fabillis, and it has been undertaken with the purpose of introducing Henryson and his works to as wide a readership as possible.
  • 1469

    Sir Thomas Malory

    Sir Thomas Malory
    Sir Thomas Malory was an English writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur, the classic English-language chronicle of the Arthurian legend
  • Period: 1500 to

    The Renaissance

    Recently, critics and literary historians have begun to call this the “Early Modern” period, but here we retain the historically familiar term “Renaissance.” This period is often subdivided into four parts, including the Elizabethan Age (1558–1603), the Jacobean Age (1603–1625), the Caroline Age (1625–1649), and the Commonwealth Period (1649–1660).
  • Christopher Marlowe

    Christopher Marlowe
    Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan poet and Shakespeare’s most important predecessor in English drama, who is noted especially for his establishment of dramatic blank verse. He had notables works like "Tamburlaine the Great"
  • Michael Drayton

    Michael Drayton
    Michael Drayton, English poet, the first to write odes in English in the manner of Horace. In 1590 he produced his first book, The Harmony of the Church, a volume of spiritual poems, dedicated to Lady Devereux.
  • Sir Philip Sidney

    Sir Philip Sidney
    Sir Philip Sidney was an English poet, courtier, scholar and soldier who is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan age. His works include Astrophel and Stella, The Defence of Poesy (also known as The Defence of Poetry or An Apology for Poetry) and The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia.
  • Edmund Spenser

    Edmund Spenser
    Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognized as one of the premier craftsmen of nascent Modern English verse, and is often considered one of the greatest poets in the English language.
  • William Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare, often called England's national poet, is considered the greatest dramatist of all time. His works are loved throughout the world, but Shakespeare's personal life is shrouded in mystery. his firat recognized work was Hamlet
  • John Donne

    John Donne
    John Donne was an English poet, scholar, soldier and secretary born into a Catholic family, a remnant of the Catholic Revival, who reluctantly became a cleric in the Church of England.
    In his work we can find "An Anatomy of the World", a poem that Donne wrote in memory of Elizabeth Drury, daughter of his patron.
  • John Webster

    John Webster
    John Webster was a playwright from England. Webster is best known for his two plays, The White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi.
  • Francis Bacon

    Francis Bacon
    Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban(s), KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author, and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. In 1623, Bacon expressed his aspirations and ideals in New Atlantis.
  • George Herbert

    George Herbert
    George Herbert was a Welsh-born poet, orator, and priest of the Church of England. His poetry is associated with the writings of the metaphysical poets, and he is recognised as "one of the foremost British devotional lyricists. In 1633 all of his English poems were published in The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations, with a preface by Ferrar.
  • Robert Burton

    Robert Burton
    Robert Burton was an English scholar at Oxford University, best known for the classic The Anatomy of Melancholy. He was also the incumbent of St Thomas the Martyr, Oxford, and of Seagrave in Leicestershire.
  • Period: to

    The Neoclassical Period

    The Neoclassical period is also subdivided into ages, including The Restoration (1660–1700), The Augustan Age (1700–1745), and The Age of Sensibility (1745–1785). The Restoration period sees some response to the puritanical age, especially in the theater.
  • John Milton

    John Milton
    John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost, written in blank verse.
  • John Dryden

    John Dryden
    John Dryden was an English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who was appointed England's first Poet Laureate. He is seen as dominating the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden. Romanticist writer Sir Walter Scott called him "Glorious John". His most famous poem was The Hind and the Panther
  • Aphra Behn

    Aphra Behn
    Aphra Behn was a British playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer from the Restoration era. As one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, her first play, The Forc’d Marriage, was produced, and The Amorous Prince followed a year later..
  • John Bunyan

    John Bunyan
    John Bunyan was an English writer and Puritan preacher best remembered as the author of the Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress. In addition to The Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan wrote nearly sixty titles, many of them expanded sermons.
  • William Congreve

    William Congreve
    William Congreve was an English playwright and poet of the Restoration period. He is known for his clever, satirical dialogue and influence on the comedy of manners style of that period.His first play The Old Bachelor, written to amuse himself while convalescing, was produced at the Theatre Royal
  • Alexander Pope

    Alexander Pope
    Alexander Pope, poet and satirist of the English Augustan period, best known for his poems An Essay on Criticism
  • Jonathan Swift

    Jonathan Swift
    Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for the Whigs, then for the Tories), poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, hence his common sobriquet, "Dean Swift". Swift is remembered for works such as A Tale of a Tub (1704), An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity (1712), Gulliver's Travels (1726),
  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

    Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
    Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, née Pierrepont, the most colourful Englishwoman of her time and a brilliant and versatile writer. Among the works that she then composed was an anonymous and lively attack on the satirist Jonathan Swift (1734), a play, Simplicity
  • Samuel Johnson

    Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson, often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer.his work most recognized was The Vanity of Human Wishes
  • Edmund Burke

    Edmund Burke
    Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman and philosopher. A Vindication of Natural Society: or, a View of the Miseries and Evils arising to Mankind from every Species of Artificial Society is a work by Edmund Burke is a satire of Lord Bolingbroke's deism.
  • Thomas Percy

    Thomas Percy
    Thomas Percy, English antiquarian and bishop whose collection of ballads, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, awakened widespread interest in English and Scottish traditional songs.
  • Period: to

    The Romantic Period

    The beginning date for the Romantic period is often debated. Some claim it is 1785, immediately following the Age of Sensibility. The publication year for William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s book Lyrical Ballads is its true beginning. There is also a minor period, also quite popular (between 1786–1800), called the Gothic era. Writers of note for this period include Matthew Lewis, Anne Radcliffe, and William Beckford.
  • William Thomas Beckford

    William Thomas Beckford
    William Thomas Beckford was an English novelist; an art collector and patron of works of decorative art, a critic, travel writer, slaveowner, and sometime politician, He is remembered as the author of the Gothic novel Vathek (1786)
  • William Blake

    William Blake
    William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age Notable works "Songs of Innocence and of Experience"
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He wrote the poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan
  • Ann Radcliffe

    Ann Radcliffe
    Ann Radcliffe was an English author and pioneer of Gothic fiction. Her technique of explaining apparently supernatural elements in her novels has been credited with gaining Gothic fiction respectability in the 1790s
  • William Wordsworth

    William Wordsworth
    William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads.
  • Jane Austen

    Jane Austen
    She published four novels during her lifetime: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815).
  • John Keats

    John Keats
    John Keats, English Romantic lyric poet who devoted his short life to the perfection of a poetry marked by vivid imagery, great sensuous appeal, and an attempt to express a philosophy through classical legend. One of his most acclaimed works is "Sleep and Poetry".
  • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

    Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
    Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was an English novelist who wrote the Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley

    Percy Bysshe Shelley
    Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets, widely regarded as one of the greatest lyric and philosophical poets in the English language. Shelley is best known for classic poems such as "Ozymandias", "Ode to the West Wind".
  • Thomas De Quincey

    Thomas De Quincey
    Thomas Penson De Quincey was an English essayist, best known for his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
  • Charles Lamb

    Charles Lamb
    Charles Lamb was an English essayist, poet, and antiquarian, best known for his Essays of Elia and for the children's book Tales from Shakespeare, co-authored with his sister, Mary Lamb
  • Period: to

    The Victorian Period

    The Victorian period is in strong contention with the Romantic period for being the most popular, influential, and prolific period in all of English (and world) literature.The period has often been divided into “Early” (1832–1848), “Mid” (1848–1870) and “Late” (1870–1901) periods or into two phases, that of the Pre-Raphaelites (1848–1860) and that of Aestheticism and Decadence (1880–1901).
  • Thomas Carlyle

    Thomas Carlyle
    Thomas Carlyle was a British historian, satirical writer, essayist, translator, philosopher, mathematician, and teacher. In his book On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, he argued that the actions of the "Great Man" play a key role in history, claiming that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men".
  • Robert Browning

    Robert Browning
    Robert Browning. His early work was harshly criticized. While trying his hand at drama, he discovered the dramatic monologue, which he adapted to his own poetry in Dramatic Lyrics
  • Charles Dickens

     Charles Dickens
    Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His novella A Christmas Carol remains especially popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre.
  • Elizabeth Barrett

    Elizabeth Barrett
    Elizabeth Barrett was already a respected poet who had published literary criticism and Greek translations in addition to poetry. Her first volume of poetry, The Seraphim and Other Poems, appeared in 1838, followed by Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Barrett (1844)
  • Emily Brontë

    Emily Brontë
    Emily Brontë was an English novelist and poet who wrote a single novel, Wuthering Heights, a highly imaginative work of passion and hate set on the Yorkshire moors. It received terrible reviews when first published but came to be considered one of the finest novels in the English language.
  • William Makepeace Thackeray

    William Makepeace Thackeray
    William Makepeace Thackeray, English novelist whose reputation rests chiefly on Vanity Fair (1847–48), a novel of the Napoleonic period in England, and The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. (1852), set in the early 18th century.
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson,

    Alfred Lord Tennyson,
    He was the Poet Laureate during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular British poets. The best-known poems by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, included “The Charge of the Light Brigade” and “Crossing the Bar.”
  • George Eliot

    George Eliot
    George Eliot was an English Victorian novelist known for the psychological depth of her characters and her descriptions of English rural life. Her major works included Adam Bede.
  • Anthony Trollope

    Anthony Trollope
    Anthony Trollope was an English novelist and civil servant of the Victorian era. Among his best-known works is a series of novels collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, which revolves around the imaginary county of Barsetshire.
  • Christina Georgina Rossetti

    Christina Georgina Rossetti
    Christina Georgina Rossetti was an English poet who wrote various romantic, devotional, and children's poems. "Goblin Market" and "Remember" remain famous. She wrote the words of two Christmas carols well known in the UK: "In the Bleak Midwinter"
  • Walter Pater

    Walter Pater
    Walter Horatio Pater was an English essayist, literary and art critic, and fiction writer, regarded as one of the great stylists. His works on Renaissance subjects were popular but controversial in his times.Marius the Epicurean is his most substantial work.
  • Joseph Conrad

    Joseph Conrad
    Joseph Conrad was an English novelist and short-story writer of Polish descent. He is best known for writing the novels Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo (1904), and The Secret Agent (1907) and for the novella Heart of Darkness (1902).
  • Joseph Rudyard Kipling

    Joseph Rudyard Kipling
    Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in India, which inspired much of his work. Kipling's works of fiction include The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901),
  • Period: to

    The Edwardian Period

    This period is named for King Edward VII and covers the period between Victoria’s death and the outbreak of World War I.
  • Henry James OM

    Henry James OM
    Henry James OM was an American author, who became a British subject in the last year of his life. He is regarded as a key transitional figure between literary realism and literary modernism and is considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language.The Wings of the Dove is a novel by Henry James
  • William Butler Yeats

    William Butler Yeats
    William Butler Yeats was both poet and playwright, a towering figure in 20th-century literature in English, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923
  • Alfred Noyes

    Alfred Noyes
    Alfred Noyes CBE was an English poet, short-story writer and playwright."The Highwayman" is a romantic ballad poem written by Alfred Noyes
  • John Galsworthy OM

    John Galsworthy OM
    John Galsworthy OM was an English novelist and playwright. Notable works include The Forsyte Saga (1906–1921) and its sequels, A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1932.
  • H.G. Wells

    H.G. Wells
    H.G. Wells, in full Herbert George Wells, English novelist, journalist, sociologist, and historian best known for such science fiction novels as The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds
  • Period: to

    The Georgian Period

    The Georgian period usually refers to the reign of George V (1910–1936) but sometimes also includes the reigns of the four successive Georges from 1714–1830.
  • Ford Madox Ford

    Ford Madox Ford
    Ford Madox Ford was an English novelist, poet, critic and editor whose journals The English Review and The Transatlantic Review were instrumental in the development of early 20th-century English and American literature. Ford’s article “On Impressionism” outlined his approach to writing the modern novel with the use of Impressionism as a literary method.
  • Rupert Brooke

    Rupert Brooke
    Rupert Brooke, English poet, a wellborn, gifted, handsome youth whose early death in World War I contributed to his idealized image in the interwar period. His best-known work is the sonnet sequence.
  • Period: to

    The Modern Period

    The modern period traditionally applies to works written after the start of World War I. Common features include bold experimentation with subject matter, style, and form, encompassing narrative, verse, and drama.
  • William Henry Davies

    William Henry Davies
    William Henry Davies was a Welsh poet and writer. Davies spent a significant part of his life as a tramp or hobo, in the United Kingdom and United States, but became one of the most popular poets of his time. Davies is usually classed as one of the Georgian Poets, although much of his work is not typical of the group, in either style or theme
  • Ralph Hodgson

    Ralph Hodgson
    Most of Hodgson's works were written between 1907 and 1917, a period that ushered in the modernist revolution in poetry, in which he took little part. ... His collections include The Last Blackbird and Other Lines (1907), Eve (1913), Poems (1917), The Skylark and Other Poems (1958), and Collected Poems (1961).
  • E.M. Forster

    E.M. Forster
    Edward Morgan Forster was an English fiction writer, essayist and librettist. Many of his novels examine class difference and hypocrisy, including A Passage to India The last brought him his greatest success. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 16 separate years.
  • Adeline Virginia Woolf

    Adeline Virginia Woolf
    Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist 20th century authors and also a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.Mrs Dalloway is a novel by Virginia Woolf that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post–First World War England. It is one of Woolf's best-known novels.
  • John Edward Masefield

    John Edward Masefield
    John Edward Masefield was an English poet and writer, and Poet Laureate from 1930 until 1967. Among his best known works are the children's novels The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights, and the poems The Everlasting Mercy and "Sea-Fever".
  • D.H. Lawrence

    D.H. Lawrence
    D.H. Lawrence is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. He published many novels and poetry volumes during his lifetime, including Sons and Lovers and Women in Love, but is best known for his infamous Lady Chatterley's Lover
  • Henry Graham Greene

    Henry Graham Greene
    Henry Graham Greene professionally known as Graham Greene, was an English writer and journalist regarded by many as one of the leading English novelists of the 20th century. Combining literary acclaim with widespread popularity,Greene's first published novel was The Man Within
  • Aldous Leonard Huxley

    Aldous Leonard Huxley
    Aldous Leonard Huxley was an English writer and philosopher. He wrote nearly fifty books both novels and non-fiction works as well as wide-ranging essays, narratives, and poems.Brave New World is a dystopian novel by English author Aldous Huxley, written in 1931 and published in 1932
  • Dorothy Miller Richardson

    Dorothy Miller Richardson
    Dorothy Miller Richardson was a British author and journalist. Author of Pilgrimage, a sequence of 13 semi-autobiographical novels published between 1915 and 1967—though Richardson saw them as chapters of one work—she was one of the earliest modernist novelists to use stream of consciousness as a narrative technique.
  • James Joyce

    James Joyce
    James Joyce is known for his experimental use of language and exploration of new literary methods, including interior monologue, use of a complex network of symbolic parallels, and invented words, puns, and allusions in his novels, especially Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939).
  • Period: to

    The Postmodern Period

    The postmodern period begins about the time that World War II ended. Many believe it is a direct response to modernism. Some say the period ended about 1990, but it is likely too soon to declare this period closed.
  • Thomas Stearns Elio

    Thomas Stearns Elio
    Thomas Stearns Eliot was an American-born British poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary critic and editor. Considered one of the 20th century's major poets, Eliot attracted widespread attention for his poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in 1915
  • Doris May Lessing

    Doris May Lessing
    Doris May Lessing was a British-Zimbabwean (Rhodesian) novelist. Her novels include The Grass Is Singing (1950), the sequence of five novels collectively called Children of Violence (1952–1969), The Golden Notebook (1962), The Good Terrorist (1985), and five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives (1979–1983).
  • Joseph Heller,

    Joseph Heller,
    Joseph Heller, American writer whose novel Catch-22 was one of the most significant works of protest literature to appear after World War II.
  • Samuel Beckett

    Samuel Beckett
    Samuel Beckett was an Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator. Watt was Samuel Beckett's second published novel in English.
  • John Anthony Burgess Wilson

    John Anthony Burgess Wilson
    John Anthony Burgess Wilson, who published under the name Anthony Burgess, was an English writer and composer.
    Although Burgess was predominantly a comic writer, his dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange remains his best-known novel.
  • John Fowles

    John Fowles
    John Fowles, in full John Robert Fowles, English novelist, whose allusive and descriptive works combine psychological probings—chiefly of sex and love—with an interest in social and philosophical issues.Fictional works include The Ebony Tower, Daniel Martin, Mantissa, and A Maggot.
  • Dame Penelope Margaret Lively

    Dame Penelope Margaret Lively
    Dame Penelope Margaret Lively is a British writer of fiction for both children and adults. Lively has won both the Booker Prize (Moon Tiger, 1987) and the Carnegie Medal for British children's books (The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, 1973).
  • Dave Eggers

    Dave Eggers
    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a memoir by Dave Eggers released in 2000. It chronicles his stewardship of his younger brother Christopher "Toph" Eggers following the cancer-related deaths of his parents.
  • Iain Banks

    Iain Banks
    Iain Banks was a Scottish author. He wrote mainstream fiction under the name Iain Banks and science fiction as Iain M. Banks, including the initial of his adopted middle name MenzieHis twenty-seventh novel The Quarry was published posthumously. His final work, a collection of poetry, was released in February 2015.
  • Seamus Heaney

    Seamus Heaney
    Seamus Heaney is the most well-known and probably the most significant and influential English-language poet in contemporary literature. Heaney objected strongly to being included as a ‘British poet’ in The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry Human Chain is the twelfth and final poetry collection by Seamus Heaney