The art of the essay

This blog will feature short appreciations of some of the best essays ever written as well as of some that are less well known. We will be looking at texts that go back centuries, even millennia, as well as texts that have just been written. What we will discover, over and over again, is how relevant essays still are and how effective the essayistic form may be.

This is not a blog about how to write essays — there are many books and university or college courses which do that. It is a blog that encourages you to read some of the great writing that already exists and, in so doing, it may well help you write better!

The term ‘essay’ comes from Montaigne (1533—1592), whose ‘essais’ or, literally, ‘attempts’ are often considered to be some of the earliest examples of the genre in modern times. But the essay is an immensely heterogeneous form, and this makes it difficult to define. It can be personal, argumentative, philosophical, descriptive, reflective. It can be very short, or it can be moderately long. This blog will focus mainly on the personal essay, and it will look primarily, though not exclusively, at short personal essays.

Some of the essayists whose works we will be discussing are Addison, Bacon, Borges, Chesterton, Dillard, Eliot, Hazlitt, Huxley, Johnson, Lamb, Montaigne, Orwell, Sontag, Steele, Swift, Thoreau, Twain, White, Woolf and many others.




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