Jonson, Ben


English poet and dramatist, born at Westminster. After army service he entered the theatre for which acted and wrote.

He met Shakespeare who acted in his play 'Every Man in His Hammer'. There followed 'Every Man out of His Humour', 'Volpone' and many other plays.

After Shakespeare died Jonson continued to write, piliing comedy on comedy - he remained the unquestioned literary dicator of England until his death in 1637.

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Johnson, Samuel

1709 - 84

English poet and the leading literary scholar and critic of his time. After Shakespeare he is possibly the best known figure in the whole range of English literature.

Johnson's first work of lasting importance, was his Dictionary of the English Language, the first comprehensive lexicographical work on English ever undertaken. Rasselas, a moral romance, appeared in 1759, and The Idler, a collection of his essays, in 1761.

In the 1770s Johnson wrote a series of Tory pamphlets. His political conservatism was based upon a profound skepticism as to the perfectibility of human nature. Although personally generous and compassionate, he held that a strict social order is necessary to save humanity from itself.


Milton, John


English poet, born in London and educated at Cambridge. He wrote many pamphlets treating personal liberties during the Commonwealth period.

After the Restoration Milton devoted his life to write poetry, producing his most famous work 'Paradise Lost'.

He remains as one of the preeminent writers in the English language and as a thinker of world importance.

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Pope, Alexander


English poet, born in London, and friend of Swift. Among his works are the 'Essay on Criticism' and 'Essay on Man' and translations of the 'Illiad' and 'Odyssey'.

He is known for the depth of his thought and the accuracy of his social satire. He is considered a leading literary critic and the epitome of English Neoclassicism.


Swift, Jonathan


Irish writer, born in Dublin - the greatest satirist in the English language. He studied at Dublin, then moved to England, where he became secretary to the diplomat, Sir William Temple. During a visit to Ireland, he was ordained in the Anglican Church. In 1714 he was made dean of St Patrick's in Dublin.

Swift's writings are nearly all political, notably 'The Tale of a Tub', a religious satire, and his world-famous work 'Gulliver's Travels' - a biting satire on man in society. It followed the work of Defoe's novel about Robinson Crusoe, but in Swift's novel Gulliver is wrecked on an island where human beings are six inches tall. The Lilliputans are absorbed with their self-importance and vanities - these human follies reduced into a miniature scale. Less optimistic than Robinson Crusoe Swift wanted to show the consequences of human's refusal to be reasonable.