If you think about British books nowadays the most likely names to spring to mind are J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter. Currently, J. K. Rowling’s books about a schoolboy wizard are best sellers around the world. Her last installment Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows was the largest grossing book ever sold!
Not all of Britain’s famous authors are so modern. The playwright William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) and the novelist Charles Dickens (1812-1870) remain two of the most popular and widely known British writers. In addition to writing 35 known plays, Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets and sometimes acted in small parts in his own plays. His best known plays include: ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘King Lear’, ‘Hamlet’, and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Additional information on William Shakespeare can be found at the Bartleby web site and the web site of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Dickens began his writing career as a journalist, and all of his novels were first published serially in periodicals. His most famous works include ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, and ‘David Copperfield’. Further information on Charles Dickens is available here.
The novels of Jane Austen (1775-1817) are known for their subtlety of observation and irony, together with insights into the provincial middle-classes in the early part of the 19th century. Her works include ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, and ‘Emma’. Additional information on Jane Austen can be found at the Jane Austen Information Page and the Jane Austen Society of North America web site.
The Bronte sisters, Charlotte (1816-1855), Emily (1818-1848) and Anne (1820-1849) were 19th-century novelists. Charlotte is best known for her novel ‘Jane Eyre’ and Emily for ‘Wuthering Heights’.
One of the most widely known English poets is Geoffrey Chaucer (1345-1400). His best known work is ‘The Canterbury Tales’, a collection of tales by a group of pilgrims bound for the shrine of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury. More information on Chaucer can be found at The Geoffrey Chaucer website.
The London poet, Andrew Motion, succeeded Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate in 1999. The Poet Laureate is a member of the Royal Household, appointed by the Royal Warrant, who composes poems in celebration of State occasions. The appointment of a Poet Laureate dates from the time of King James I (1603 – 1625).
Many distinguished works of contemporary fiction have been awarded the Booker Prize, given annually to the best novel published in Britain.