What is an ‘essay’?

To understand what an 'essay' is, you have to read as many essays as possible. The term is incredibly flexible, as shown for instance, in Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French's edited book, Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time (University of Iowa Press, 2012). This book brings together an impressive range of texts in... Continue Reading →


And even those who declare themselves to be in favour of freedom of opinion generally drop their claim when it is their own adversaries who are being prosecuted.

‘The incomparable Max’

Max Beerbohm (1872-1956) is not as well known nowadays as some other major English essayists like Lamb, Hazlitt, Johnson and Orwell, but it is quite significant that George Bernard Shaw called him ‘the incomparable Max’ and Virginia Woolf, like several other contemporaries, also thought very highly of him. What strikes me as brilliant in this... Continue Reading →

William Hazlitt, ‘The Pleasure of Hating’

It is somewhat telling of William Hazlitt (1778-1830) that he had the audacity and courage to write and publish an essay called ‘The Pleasure of Hating’—often described as a ‘classic of spleen’. Hazlitt is an arch-romantic in both inspiration and execution. His ideas, for example, inspired Keats and his notion of ‘negative sensibility’. He is... Continue Reading →

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... Continue Reading →

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