History of English Literature

  • 479


    It covers all the works written in Europe, from the year 479 (fall of the Western Roman Empire), until the beginning of the Florentine revival at the end of the 15th century.
    Literature at this time was called by religious writings, poetry, theology, the life of saints were included. at the same time it also saw scientific and secular works.
  • 731

    The Venerable Bede

    in his monastery at Jarrow, completes his history of the English church and people
  • 800


    the first great work of Germanic literature mingles the legends of Scandinavia with the experience in England of Angles and Saxons
  • 950


    The material of the Eddas, taking shape in Iceland, derives from earlier sources in Norway, Britain and Burgundy
  • 1300

    Duns Scotus

    Duns Scotus
    Duns Scotus, known as the Subtle Doctor in medieval times, later provides humanists with the name Dunsman or dunce
  • 1340

    William of Ockham

    William of Ockham
    advocates paring down arguments to their essentials, an approach later known as Ockham's Razor
  • 1469

    Thomas Malory

    Thomas Malory
    in gaol somewhere in England, compiles Morte d'Arthur – an English account of the French tales of King Arthur
  • 1501


    The Renaissance was a cultural movement present throughout Europe, so England was not absent. It began in the 16th century until the middle of the 17th century, and is known as "The Shakespearean Years"
  • 1510

    Erasmus and Thomas More

    Erasmus and Thomas More
    take the northern Renaissance in the direction of Christian humanism
  • 1524

    William Tyndale

    William Tyndale
    studies in the university at Wittenberg and plans to translate the Bible into English
  • 1564

    Marlowe and Shakespeare

    Marlowe and Shakespeare
    are born in the same year, with Marlowe the older by two months
  • 1578


    The Elizabethan era had a thriving literary production, especially in the field of theater. William Shakespeare was an outstanding author of poetry and plays, surely the most relevant figure that English literature has had in its history, but also other figures have had a relevant weight in the theater such as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont The urban comedy genre was also developed very often and admired.
  • Marlowe's first play

    Marlowe's first play
    Tamburlaine the Great, introduces the swaggering blank verse of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama
  • Edmund Spenser

    Edmund Spenser
    English poet Edmund Spenser celebrates the Protestant Elizabeth I as The Faerie Queene
  • Shakespeare

    After tentative beginnings in the three parts of Henry VI, Shakespeare achieves his first masterpiece on stage with Richard III
  • Shakespeare's central character in Hamlet

    Shakespeare's central character in Hamlet
    expresses both the ideals of the Renaissance and the disillusion of a less confident age
  • William Shakespeare's

    William Shakespeare's
    William Shakespeare's name appears among the actors in a list of the King's Men
  • Ben Jonson

    Ben Jonson
    writes The Masque of Blackness, the first of his many masques for the court of James I
  • Ben Jonson

     Ben Jonson
    The satirical voice of the English playwright Ben Jonson is heard to powerful effect in Volpone
  • Shakespeare's

    Shakespeare's sonnets, written ten years previously, are published
  • Shakespeare's

    Shakespeare's last completed play, The Tempest, is performed
  • William Shakespeare

    William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare dies at New Place, his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, and is buried in Holy Trinity Church

    The poet and playwright Ben Jonson led the Jacobean literature, after Shakespeare's death. Several authors followed his style as Beaumont and Fletcher

    The reopening of the theaters provided the opportunity to represent satirical works about the new nobility and the growing bourgeoisie. The mobility of society that followed the social upheavals of the previous generation provided the material for the comedy of manners. Aphra Behn was the first female professional novelist and playwright. The allegory of John Bunyan, The Pilgrim, is one of the most read works of this period.
  • Aphra Behn's

    Aphra Behn's
    Aphra Behn's novel Oroonoko makes an early protest against the inhumanity of the African slave trade

    The Augustan Age begins in English literature, claiming comparison with the equivalent flowering under Augustus Caesar
    The poetry of these years was very formal as evidenced by the works of Alexander Pope.
  • Alexander Pope's

    Alexander Pope's
    Alexander Pope's Rape of the Lock introduces a delicate vein of mock-heroic in English poetry
  • Daniel Defoe's

    Daniel Defoe's
    Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, with its detailed realism, can be seen as the first English novel
  • Henry Fielding

    Henry Fielding
    introduces a character of lasting appeal in the lusty but good-hearted Tom Jones
  • Laurence Sterne

    Laurence Sterne
    publishes the first two volumes of Tristram Shandy, beginning with the scene at the hero's conception

    The reaction to industrialization and urbanism pushed poets to explore nature, such as the "Lake Poets" group in which we included William Wordsworth. These romantic poets brought to English literature a new degree of sentimentality and introspection. Among the most important authors of the second generation of romantic poets are Lord Byron, Percy Bysse Shelley and John Keats
  • William Blake

     William Blake
    publishes Songs of Innocence, a volume of his poems with every page etched and illustrated by himself
  • Wordsworth and Coleridge

     Wordsworth and Coleridge
    English poets Wordsworth and Coleridge jointly publish Lyrical Ballads, a milestone in the Romantic movement. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' is published in Lyrical Ballads
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley

    Percy Bysshe Shelley
    is expelled from Oxford university for circulating a pamphlet with the title The Necessity of Atheism.
    English author Jane Austen publishes her first work in print, Sense and Sensibility, at her own expense
  • Lord Byron

    Lord  Byron
    The first two cantos are published of Byron's largely autobiographical poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, bringing him immediate fame

    Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes probably his best-known poem, the sonnet Ozymandias.
    Two of Jane Austen's novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are published in the year after her death.
    Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, a Gothic tale about giving life to an artificial man
  • Byron POEM

    Byron POEM
    Byron begins publication in parts of his longest poem, Don Juan an epic satirical comment on contemporary life
  • John Keats

    John Keats
    English poet John Keats publishes Ode to a Nightingale, inspired by the bird's song in his Hampstead garden
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley

    Percy Bysshe Shelley
    English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley publishes Ode to the West Wind, written mainly in a wood near Florence

    The form of literature that gained more importance at this time was the novel. Most authors were more concerned with knowing the tastes of the middle class they read, than in satisfying aristocrats.
  • John Keats death

    English poet John Keats dies in Rome at the age of twenty-five
  • Trollope

    English author Frances Trollope ruffles transatlantic feathers with her Domestic Manners of the Americans, based on a 3-year stay
  • Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens
    24-year-old Charles Dickens begins monthly publication of his first work of fiction, Pickwick Papers (published in book form in 1837)
  • Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist

    Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist
    Charles Dickens' first novel, Oliver Twist, begins monthly publication (in book form, 1838
  • Brontë sisters

     Brontë sisters
    The three Brontë sisters jointly publish a volume of their poems and sell just two copies
  • William Makepeace Thackeray

    William Makepeace Thackeray
    English author William Makepeace Thackeray begins publication of his novel Vanity Fair in monthly parts (book form 1848)
  • Charlotte — Jane Eyre

    Charlotte — Jane Eyre
    Charlotte becomes the first of the Brontë sisters to have a novel published — Jane Eyre
  • Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights

    Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights
    Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights follows just two months after her sister Charlotte's Jane Eyre
  • Brontë sisters

    Brontë sisters
    Branwell, Emily and Anne Brontë die within a period of eight months
  • Charles Dickens

    Charles Dickens begins the publication in monthly numbers of David Copperfield, his own favourite among his novels
  • Anthony Trollope-The Warden

    Anthony Trollope-The Warden
    English author Anthony Trollope publishes The Warden, the first in his series of six Barsetshire novels
  • George Eliot

    George Eliot
    English author George Eliot wins fame with her first full-length novel, Adam Bede
  • Charles Dickens-A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens-A Tale of Two Cities
    Charles Dickens publishes his French Revolution novel, A Tale of Two Cities
  • Charles Dickens novel "Great Expectations"

    Charles Dickens  novel "Great Expectations"
    Charles Dickens begins serial publication of his novel "Great Expectations" (in book form 1861)
  • George Eliot-The Mill on the Floss

    George Eliot-The Mill on the Floss
    George Eliot publishes The Mill on the Floss, her novel about the childhood of Maggie and Tom Tulliver
  • George Eliot-Middlemarch

    George Eliot-Middlemarch
    George Eliot publishes Middlemarch, in which Dorothea makes a disastrous marriage to the pedantic Edward Casaubon

    The most prominent novelists of the period between wars were D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, this last member of the Bloomsbury group. The Sitwells also gained strength between literary and artistic movements, but with less influence. The most important popular literature writers were P.G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie.
  • D.H. Lawrence

    D.H. Lawrence
    D.H. Lawrence's career as a writer is launched with the publication of his first novel, The White Peacock
  • D.H. Lawrence novel sons and Lovers

    D.H. Lawrence novel sons and Lovers
    D.H. Lawrence publishes a semi-autobiographical novel about the Morel family, Sons and Lovers
  • Virginia Woolf

     Virginia Woolf
    The English writer Virginia Woolf publishes her first novel, The Voyage Out
  • D.H. Lawrence's novel The Rainbow

    D.H. Lawrence's novel The Rainbow
    D.H. Lawrence's novel about the Brangwen family, The Rainbow, is seized by the police as an obscene work
  • D.H. Lawrence's -Women in Love

    D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love, a continuation of the family story in The Rainbow, is published first in the USA
  • Virginia Woolf novel Mrs Dalloway

    Virginia Woolf novel Mrs Dalloway
    Virginia Woolf publishes her novel Mrs Dalloway, in which the action is limited to a single day
  • Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore-in A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh

    Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore-in A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh
    Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the others make their first appearance in A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Virginia Woolf-To The Lighthouse

    Virginia Woolf-To The Lighthouse
    Virginia Woolf uses a Hebridean holiday as the setting for her narrative in To The Lighthouse
  • D.H. Lawrence's new novel,

    D.H. Lawrence's new novel, in which Lady Chatterley is in love with her husband's gamekeeper, is privately printed in Florence
  • Agatha Christie's

    Agatha Christie's
    Agatha Christie's Miss Marple makes her first appearance, in Murder at the Vicarage
  • Virginia Woolf novels, The Waves

    Virginia Woolf novels, The Waves
    Virginia Woolf publishes the most fluid of her novels, The Waves, in which she tells the story through six interior monologues
  • Postmodern literature

    Postmodern literature
    Two examples of English postmodern literature are: John Fowles and Julian Barnes. Some important writers of the early 21st century are: Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Will Self, Andrew Motion and Salman Rushdie.