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Alphabet of British Writers (Part 4)

At first glance it may seem that the British nation has no artistic talents as they have never produced many world-famous painters, sculptors or composers. It is quite remarkable then that they have had so many brilliant and renowned writers. And indeed, literature is probably the art that the British excel in. You can find at least a few names of well-known British poets and novelists for each letter of the alphabet, and many of the names are famous all over the world. This alphabet of British writers I want to present to you is my subjective list. I chose the literary people I find especially interesting or intriguing or whose achievements are particularly noteworthy. My aim is to show you the richness of British literature and encourage you to read some works written by Brits.

Johnson, Samuel (1709-1784)

Samuel Johnson, an English poet, essayist, critic and biographer, is considered such an outstanding figure in English literature that the second half of the 18th century is often referred to as ‘the age of Johnson.’

He was born in September 1807 in Lichfield, Staffordshire. As a child he suffered from tuberculosis which damaged his hearing and eyesight as well as disfiguring his face. He did not want anyone to pity him and was determined to become independent. In 1728 he entered Pembroke College, Oxford, but because of a lack of money he had to leave the university one year later. He started working as a teacher and published his first essays in the Birmingham Journal. When he was twenty-five, he married a widow, Elizabeth Porter, who was twenty years older than he. They invested all their money in a private school, Edial Hall, but the school did not prosper, and they were left penniless. They moved to London, where Johnson published his essays, pamphlets and parliamentary reports in The Gentleman’s Magazine. His first great literary success came in 1738, when he wrote a poem entitled ‘London.’ It was followed by Life of Savage (1745), a biography of his friend and poet Richard Savage.

In 1747 Johnson started his best known work, A Dictionary of the English Language, on which he worked for eight years. When the dictionary finally appeared in 1755, it established Johnson’s position as a significant literary figure. But even though he continued writing, his material situation did not improve until 1762, when he was awarded an annual government pension.

He died on December 13, 1784 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His other works: a poem ‘The Vanity of Human Wishes’ (1749), Irene: A Tragedy (1754), Rasselas (1759), and The Idler (1761).

Kipling, Rudyard (1865-1936)

Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865 in Bombay, India, where his father held the post of Professor of Architectural Sculpture at the Bombay School of Art. He was brought up by an ‘ayah’ who taught him Hindustani as his first language. When he was five his parents sent him to Britain, where he stayed with a foster family at Southsea. At the age of twelve he went to United Ser - vices College, a boarding school for boys which specialized in training for entry into military academies. But there was no chance for a military career for him because of his poor eyesight. In

1882 he returned to Lahore, India, where he worked as a reporter for the Civil and Military Gazette and later as an overseas correspondent for The Pioneer. At that time he started writing poems and short stories which were later collected and published, winning him great success. When he moved back to England in 1889, he was already popular and recognized as a brilliant writer.

In 1892 Kipling married an American, Carrie Balestier, and moved to the USA. That is where his first two children were born and where he wrote The Jungle Book (1894), a collection of stories for children, The Second Jungle Book (1895), a collection of poems Seven Seas (1896) and a novel Captains Courageous (1896).

A serious quarrel with his brother- in-law made Kipling decide to return to England in 1896. A year later his son John was born, but in 1899 his eldest daughter died of pneumonia, which was a terrible blow to him. The Kiplings settled in Sussex, spending all their holidays in South Africa. In 1901 Kip ling’s masterpiece Kim was published and in 1907 the writer was awarded the Noble Prize for literature.

Kipling’s son fought in the World War I and died in 1915 in the battle of Loos. His father described the history of his regiment in The Irish Guards in the Great War (1923). In 1922 Kipling was named Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He died of a brain hemorrhage on January 18, 1936 in London and was buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Lawrence, David Herbert (1885-1930)

David Herbert Lawrence was born on September 11, 1885 in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. His father, a coal miner, was an alcoholic. As a result Lawrence’s childhood was dominated by poverty and quarrels between his parents. In 1898 he won a scholarship to Nottingham High School. After leaving the school in 1901, he worked first as a clerk in a surgical appliance factory and then as a student-teacher. He went on to receive a teaching certificate from University College, Nottingham in 1908. In the same year he went to London and began his teaching career. In 1910 Lawrence’s mother died of cancer. It is believed that he helped her die by giving her an overdose of sleeping medicine.

Lawrence wrote his first poems and short stories when he was still at university. In 1909 the editor Ford Madox Ford decided to publish a number of his poems in The English Review. Two years later his first novel The White Peacock appeared, launching his literary career.

In 1912 Lawrence fell in love with Frieda von Richthofen, Professor Ernest Weekly’s wife and the mother of three children. They eloped to Bavaria and married in 1914. His novel Sons and Lovers, which was based on his childhood, appeared in 1913, and in 1915 he published The Rainbow, which was banned for obscenity. During the World War I Lawrence and his wife were unable to obtain passports. They were accused of being German spies and were forced to leave Cornwall. They emigrated in 1919 and spent the next decade traveling to Italy, Ceylon, Australia, America and France.

Lawrence’s best known work, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, was first published privately in Florence in 1928. It was banned for a time in UK and the US as pornographic. Lawrence’s other novels from the 1920s include Women In Love (1920), a sequel to The Rainbow; Aaron’s Rod (1922), Kangaroo (1923), The Plumed Serpent (1926), and The Man Who Died (1929).

D.H. Lawrence died in Vence, France on March 2, 1930. Posthumously he was also recognized as an artist for his expressionistic paintings completed in the 1920s. 

Monika Oracz


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