“Essays root ideas in personal experience,” the philosopher Alain de Botton told us during an interview with Five Books in which he discussed five books of ‘illuminating essays.’
What other essays illuminate us? We’ve asked authors, critics and other public figures for their reading recommendations, including New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik and Oxford professor David Russell, who discussed the Victorian essay specifically.
by Charles Lamb
Culture and Anarchy and Other Writings
by Matthew Arnold
Selected Essays, Poems, and Other Writings
by George Eliot
Studies in the History of the Renaissance
by Walter Pater
The Hands of the Living God: An Account of a Psychoanalytic Treatment
by Marion Milner
With the advent of the Victorian age, polite maxims of eighteenth-century essays in the Spectator were replaced by a new generation of writers who thought deeply—and playfully—about social relationships, moral responsibility, education and culture. Here, Oxford literary critic David Russell explores the distinct qualities that define the Victorian essay and recommends five of its greatest practitioners.