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If literary critics are to be believed when they say Shakespeare is the most important and influential writer of all time in English, and also that Milton is right after Shakespeare in rank, who would round out your top five and why?
I will be thinking about this and will have my reasons and answers that I will post after a while.
01. Shakespeare02. Milton03. ?04. ?05. ?
Anyone who wrote their major works in English are eligible, whether or not their native tongue was English. (e.g., Joseph Conrad is allowed because he wrote in English, his third language, but Dante Alighieri is not allowed because his works were translated into English after he wrote them in Italian.)
Mmm, let me see...
3) James Joyce
4) Edgar Allan Poe
5) Geoffrey Chaucer
3) Geoffrey Chaucer
4) Edmund Spencer
5) Daniel Defoe / Jonathan Swift
Great responses, Phil and Diamond. Really thoughtful replies.
03. Geoffrey Chaucer 04. William Tyndale 05. Charles Dickens Chapman, Blake, Keats, Wordsworth, Faulkner, Joyce, Eliot, Yeats et alia were all considered. But for influence, impact and importance I chose these.
Chaucer I chose for his conceptual and practical genius in devising the story of the Canterbury Tales (among others) and inhabiting them with unique characters who defy easy interpretation. A major impact on the language of his day, Middle English. Tyndale is the writer of the first Bible translated and printed in English, and crucially the basis of the King James Bible, which is one of the most continually and widely read works in English. It is hard to overestimate the influence of the King James Bible on English which would not exist in its final form without Tyndale. Finally, Dickens’ cultural and social impact with his progressive humanist minded novels have made me choose him for the final slot. His style and tone are still influential over a hundred years later.
3. Charles Dickens (I love when he gives vivid descriptions of people and places)
4. Thomas Hardey ( He doesn't cheer me up though:))
5. Virginia Woolf
Can I add politicians? It would be unfair not to mention them. They're talented for telling lies but they write the history of their nations.
Good list, Arwa! That's funny about politicians. I actually considered people like Hobbes and Paine. I think even though you were half-joking, you hit a major point!
1. Shakespeare2. Milton
3. George Eliot
4. Thomas Hardy
5. Graham Greene
@Arwa and Sielwalll: Benjamin Disraeli was a politician who was a great English novelist. Sybil and Vivian Gray are very good novels, even if they aren't as well-known today.
Hi Bullwinkle---I love Greene. I finished The Heart of the Matter over the summer and wanted to start again at the beginning and read it again. With regard to Disraeli I only knew about his interaction with Queen Victoria and political career. I will definitely check out his novels. Did his rival Gladstone write any? :)
As far as I know, he didn't write any novels. But he was in a few, sort of. If you ever read Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, Dr. Watson's bulldog was named Gladstone :P
Greene's The Quiet American was great too. It's amazing that the best Vietnam War novel was written in 1955 by an Englishman.