History of English Literature

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In History
  • 731

    The Venerable Bede, in his monastery at Jarrow, completes his history of the English church and people

    The Venerable Bede, in his monastery at Jarrow, completes his history of the English church and people
    The first of the five books begins with some geographical background and then sketches the history of England, beginning with Caesar's invasion in 55 BC. A brief account of Christianity in Roman Britain, including the martyrdom of St Alban, is followed by the story of Augustine's mission to England in 597, which brought Christianity to the Anglo-Saxons. The second book begins with the death of Gregory the Great in 604.
  • 800

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

    Beowulf, the first great work of Germanic literature, mingles the legends of Scandinavia with the experience in England of Angles and Saxons
    is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3,182 alliterative lines. It is one of the most important works of Old English literature. The date of composition is a matter of contention among scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced between 975 and 1025. The anonymous poet is referred to by scholars as the "Beowulf poet".
  • 950

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

    The material of the Eddas, taking shape in Iceland, derives from earlier sources in Norway, Britain and Burgundy
    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. The term historically referred only to the Prose Edda, but this since has fallen out of use because of the confusion with the other work.
  • 1300

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

    Duns Scotus, known as the Subtle Doctor in medieval times, later provides humanists with the name Dunsman or dunce
    was a Scottish Catholic priest and Franciscan friar, university professor, philosopher, and theologian. He is one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of Western Europe in the High Middle Ages, together with Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham.[9] Scotus has had considerable influence on both Catholic and secular thought. 1251 – The carving is completed of the Tripitaka Koreana, a collection of Buddhist scriptures recorded on some 81,000 wooden blocks.
  • 1340

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

    William of Ockham advocates paring down arguments to their essentials, an approach later known as Ockham's Razor
    William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347) is, along with Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus, among the most prominent figures in the history of philosophy during the High Middle Ages. He is probably best known today for his espousal of metaphysical nominalism; indeed, the methodological principle known as “Ockham’s Razor” is named after him.
  • 1367

    A narrator who calls himself Will, and whose name may be Langland, begins the epic poem of Piers Plowman

    A narrator who calls himself Will, and whose name may be Langland, begins the epic poem of Piers Plowman
    is a Middle English allegorical narrative poem by William Langland. It is written in unrhymed, alliterative verse divided into sections called passus (Latin for "step"). Like the Pearl Poet's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest works of English literature of the Middle Ages, even preceding and influencing Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Robin Hood tales.
  • 1375

    The courtly poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tells of a mysterious visitor to the round table of King Arthur

    The courtly poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tells of a mysterious visitor to the round table of King Arthur
    Like most medieval literature, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight participates in several important literary traditions that its original audience would have instantly recognized. Medieval poets were expected to re-use established source materials in their own works. Modern readers sometimes mistakenly take this as evidence of how lacking in creativity and originality the Middle Ages were.
  • 1385

    Chaucer completes Troilus and Criseyde, his long poem about a legendary love affair in ancient Troy

    is an epic poem by Geoffrey Chaucer which re-tells in Middle English the tragic story of the lovers Troilus and Criseyde set against a backdrop of war during the Siege of Troy. It was composed using rime royale and probably completed during the mid-1380s. ... The poem had an important legacy for later writers.
  • 1387

    Chaucer begins an ambitious scheme for 100 Canterbury Tales, of which he completes only 24 by the time of his death

    Chaucer begins an ambitious scheme for 100 Canterbury Tales, of which he completes only 24 by the time of his death
    is a book of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer. It was written in the 14th century. It was one of the first books to be written in Middle English. The book is about a group of pilgrims travelling from London to Canterbury. As they travel along, each person tells a story to pass the time. Chaucer planned to write 120 stories, with each person telling two stories on the way there and two on the way back. However, only 23 were completed, and one was partially finished.
  • 1469

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

    Thomas Malory, in gaol somewhere in England, compiles Morte d'Arthur – an English account of the French tales of King Arthur
    English prose reworking by Sir Thomas Malory of tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table—along with their respective folklore. In
  • 1510

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

    Erasmus and Thomas More take the northern Renaissance in the direction of Christian humanism
    Thomas More’s Utopia is in many respects a typical product of Renaissance humanism. In fact, we might argue that due to its publication in the sixteenth century it provides a later example and certainly one much more likely to have been influenced by the half century of Italian and Northern European humanism which predates it.
  • 1524

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

    William Tyndale studies in the university at Wittenberg and plans to translate the Bible into English
    was an English scholar who became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation in the years leading up to his execution. He is well known for his (incomplete) translation of the Bible into English, influenced by the works of Erasmus of Rotterdam and Martin Luther.
  • 1549

    The first version of the English prayer book, or Book of Common Prayer, is published with text by Thomas Cranmer

    The first version of the English prayer book, or Book of Common Prayer, is published with text by Thomas Cranmer
    is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by other Christian churches historically related to Anglicanism. The original book, published in 1549 in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English Reformation following the break with Rome.
  • 1564

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

    Marlowe and Shakespeare are born in the same year, with Marlowe the older by two months
    Both playwrights were born in 1564 only two months apart, Marlowe in February and Shakespeare in April. Both were their parents' eldest surviving son and one of several siblings. Both had a father called John in the leather trades, Marlowe's as a shoemaker, Shakespeare's as a glover.
  • 1567

    The Book of Common Prayer and the New Testament are published in Welsh, to be followed by the complete Bible in 1588

  • 1582

    The 18-year-old William Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway in Stratford-upon-Avon

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

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

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

    Shakespeare's central character in Hamlet expresses both the ideals of the Renaissance and the disillusion of a less confident age
    The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, often shortened to Hamlet (/ˈhæmlɪt/), is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1601. It is Shakespeare's longest play with 30,557 words. Set in Denmark, the play depicts Prince Hamlet and his revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet's mother.
  • After tentative beginnings in the three parts of Henry VI, Shakespeare achieves his first masterpiece on stage with Richard III

    After tentative beginnings in the three parts of Henry VI, Shakespeare achieves his first masterpiece on stage with Richard III
  • John Smith publishes A Description of New England, an account of his exploration of the region in 1614

  • The poems of Massachusetts author Anne Bradstreet are published in London under the title The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America

  • Devoted fisherman Izaak Walton publishes the classic work on the subject, The Compleat Angler

  • On the first day of the new year Samuel Pepys gets up late, eats the remains of the turkey and begins his diary

  • Part I of The Pilgrim's Progress, written during John Bunyan's two spells in Bedford Gaol, is published and is immediately popular

  • The Augustan Age begins in English literature, claiming comparison with the equivalent flowering under Augustus Caesar

  • Jonathan Swift sends his hero on a series of bitterly satirical travels in Gulliver's Travels

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

  • Oliver Goldsmith's play She Stoops to Conquer is produced in London's Covent Garden theatre

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

    is a collection of illustrated poems by William Blake. It appeared in two phases: a few first copies were printed and illuminated by Blake himself in 1789; five years later he bound these poems with a set of new poems in a volume titled Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge says that while writing Kubla Khan he is interrupted by 'a person on business from Porlock

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

  • English author Thomas De Quincey publishes his autobiographical Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

  • Edward Lear publishes his Book of Nonsense, consisting of limericks illustrated with his own cartoons

  • Within six weeks of the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea, Tennyson publishes a poem finding heroism in the disaster

    Within six weeks of the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimea, Tennyson publishes a poem finding heroism in the disaster
    The Charge of the Light Brigade was a failed military action involving the British light cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in the Crimean War. British commander Lord Raglan had intended to send the Light Brigade to prevent the Russians from removing captured guns from overrun Turkish positions, a task for which the light cavalry were well-suited.
  • Charles Darwin puts forward the theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species, the result of 20 years' research

    Charles Darwin puts forward the theory of evolution in On the Origin of Species, the result of 20 years' research
    At first glance, Charles Darwin seems an unlikely revolutionary. Growing up a shy and unassuming member of a wealthy British family, he appeared, at least to his father, to be idle and directionless. But even as a child, Darwin expressed an interest in nature. Later, while studying botany at Cambridge University, he was offered a chance to work as an unpaid naturalist on the HMS Beagle, a naval vessel embarking on an exploratory voyage around the world.
  • Charles Dickens publishes his French Revolution novel, A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens publishes his French Revolution novel, A Tale of Two Cities
    A Tale of Two Cities, novel by Charles Dickens, published both serially and in book form in 1859. ... Although Dickens borrowed from Thomas Carlyle's history, The French Revolution, for his sprawling tale of London and revolutionary Paris, the novel offers more drama than accuracy.
  • Lewis Carroll publishes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a development of the story he had told Alice Liddell three years earlier

    Lewis Carroll publishes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a development of the story he had told Alice Liddell three years earlier
    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is an 1865 novel by English author Lewis Carroll (the pseudonym of Charles Dodgson).[1] It tells of a young girl named Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures.
  • Oxford University Press publishes the A volume of its New English Dictionary, which will take 37 years to reach Z

    Oxford University Press publishes the A volume of its New English Dictionary, which will take 37 years to reach Z
    is the principal historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as describing usage in its many variations throughout the world.
  • Sherlock Holmes features in Conan Doyle's first novel, A Study in Scarlet

    Sherlock Holmes features in Conan Doyle's first novel, A Study in Scarlet
    is a fictional private detective created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Referring to himself as a "consulting detective" in the stories, Holmes is known for his proficiency with observation, deduction, forensic science, and logical reasoning that borders on the fantastic, which he employs when investigating cases for a wide variety of clients, including Scotland Yard.
  • Oscar Wilde's comedy Lady Windermere's Fan is a great success with audiences in London's St. James Theatre

    Oscar Wilde's comedy Lady Windermere's Fan is a great success with audiences in London's St. James Theatre
    The story concerns Lady Windermere, who suspects that her husband is having an affair with another woman. She confronts him with it but although he denies it, he invites the other woman, Mrs Erlynne, to his wife's birthday ball. Angered by her husband's supposed unfaithfulness, Lady Windermere decides to leave her husband for another lover.
  • English author Bram Stoker publishes Dracula, his gothic tale of vampirism in Transylvania

    English author Bram Stoker publishes Dracula, his gothic tale of vampirism in Transylvania
    Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced the character of Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
  • H.G. Wells publishes his science-fiction novel The War of the Worlds, in which Martians arrive in a rocket to invade earth

    H.G. Wells publishes his science-fiction novel The War of the Worlds, in which Martians arrive in a rocket to invade earth
    science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells, first serialised in 1897 by Pearson's Magazine in the UK and by Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. The novel's first appearance in hardcover was in 1898 from publisher William Heinemann of London.
  • The heroine of H.G. Wells' novel Ann Veronica is a determined example of the New Woman

    The heroine of H.G. Wells' novel Ann Veronica is a determined example of the New Woman
    Stong-willed, reckless and fiercely independent, Ann Veronica Stanley is determined to be a Person, to work, love and, above all, to live. Walking away from her stifling father and the social conventions of her time, she leaves drab suburbia for Edwardian London and encounters an unknown world of suffragettes, Fabians and free love.
  • Robert Graves publishes his first book of poems, Over the Brazier

    Robert Graves publishes his first book of poems, Over the Brazier
    He published his first volume of poems, Over the Brazier, in 1916. He developed an early reputation as a war poet and was one of the first to write realistic poems about the experience of frontline conflict.
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein publishes his influential study of the philosophy of logic, Tractatus Logico Philosophicus

    Ludwig Wittgenstein publishes his influential study of the philosophy of logic, Tractatus Logico Philosophicus
    Considered by some to be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, Ludwig Wittgenstein played a central, if controversial, role in 20th-century analytic philosophy. He continues to influence current philosophical thought in topics as diverse as logic and language, perception and intention, ethics and religion, aesthetics and culture.
  • Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan has its world premiere in New York

    Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan has its world premiere in New York
    Shaw's personal reputation following the Great War was at a low ebb, and it is thought that he wanted to first test the play away from Britain. The play received its premiere on 28 December 1923 at the Garrick Theatre on Broadway by the Theatre Guild with Winifred Lenihan in the title role.
  • Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the others make their first appearance 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
    "Pooh" redirects here. For other uses, see Pooh (disambiguation).
    This article is about the original version of Winnie-the-Pooh. For the Disney version of this character, see Winnie the Pooh (Disney character). For the songwriter, see Poo Bear.
  • Henry Williamson wins a wide readership with Tarka the Otter, a realistic story of the life and death of an otter in Devon

    Henry Williamson wins a wide readership with Tarka the Otter, a realistic story of the life and death of an otter in Devon
    Tarka the otter pursues an active life, sometimes playful and sometimes dangerous, in the Devonshire countryside. Tarka the Otter relates the adventures of a wild otter, his narrow escapes from Deadlock, the hound, and their final confrontation in the Torridge River.
  • Agatha Christie's Miss Marple makes her first appearance, in Murder at the Vicarage

    Agatha Christie's Miss Marple makes her first appearance, in Murder at the Vicarage
    is a work of detective fiction by British writer Agatha Christie, first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in October 1930 and in the US by Dodd, Mead and Company later in the same year. The UK edition retailed at seven shillings and sixpence (7/6)[1] and the US edition at $2.00.[
  • Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman is rejected by numerous publishers before becoming, decades later, his best-known novel

    Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman is rejected by numerous publishers before becoming, decades later, his best-known novel
    is a novel by Irish writer Brian O'Nolan, writing under the pseudonym Flann O'Brien. It was written between 1939 and 1940, but after it initially failed to find a publisher, the author withdrew the manuscript from circulation and claimed he had lost it. The book remained unpublished at the time of his death in 1966.
  • C.S. Lewis gives the first glimpse of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    C.S. Lewis gives the first glimpse of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
    is a fantasy novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1950. It is the first published and best known of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956). Among all the author's books, it is also the most widely held in libraries.
  • Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American is set in contemporary Vietnam and foresees troubles ahead

    Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American is set in contemporary Vietnam and foresees troubles ahead
    is a 1955 novel by English author Graham Greene. Narrated in the first person by journalist Thomas Fowler, the novel depicts the breakdown of French colonialism in Vietnam and early American involvement in the Vietnam War. A subplot concerns a love triangle between Fowler, an American CIA agent named Alden Pyle, and Phuong, a young Vietnamese woman.
  • Penguin Books are prosecuted for obscenity for publishing D.H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, and are acquitted

    Penguin Books are prosecuted for obscenity for publishing D.H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, and are acquitted
    The 1960 obscenity trial that lead to the acquittal of Penguin Books for publishing DH Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover is a seminal case in British literary and social history. The verdict was an important victory for freedom of expression, and saw publishing in Britain become considerably more liberal.
  • Sexual intercourse begins in this year, according to Philip Larkin's 1974 poem Annus Mirabilis

    is a Latin phrase that means "wonderful year", "miraculous year" or "amazing year". This term was originally used to refer to the year 1666, and today is used to refer to several years during which events of major importance are remembered. Prior to this, however, Thomas Dekker used the phrase mirabilis annus in his 1603 pamphlet The Wonderful Year
  • German-born British art historian Nikolaus Pevsner completes his monumental 46-volume Buildings of England

    German-born British art historian Nikolaus Pevsner completes his monumental 46-volume Buildings of England
  • Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children uses the moment of India's independence to launch an adventure in magic realism

    Salman Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children uses the moment of India's independence to launch an adventure in magic realism
    is a 1981 novel by author Salman Rushdie. It deals with India's transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of India. It is considered an example of postcolonial, postmodern, and magical realist literature. The story is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, and is set in the context of actual historical events. The style of preserving history with fictional accounts is self-reflexive.
  • Racing Demon launches a trilogy on the British establishment by English playwright David Hare

    Racing Demon launches a trilogy on the British establishment by English playwright David Hare
    In conflict with government, torn with internal dissension on matters of doctrine and practice, the Church of England finds itself enjoying unwelcome publicity. David Hare's play, which details the struggle of four clergymen to make sense of their mission in South London, opened to universal acclaim.
  • A schoolboy wizard performs his first tricks in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

    A schoolboy wizard performs his first tricks in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
    is a fantasy novel written by British author J. K. Rowling. The first novel in the Harry Potter series and Rowling's debut novel, it follows Harry Potter, a young wizard who discovers his magical heritage on his eleventh birthday, when he receives a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry makes close friends and a few enemies during his first year at the school.
  • The Amber Spyglass completes Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials

    The Amber Spyglass completes Philip Pullman's trilogy, His Dark Materials
    is a trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of Northern Lights (1995) (published as The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). It follows the coming of age of two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they wander through a series of parallel universes.