English Literature CLEP Test: Authors

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Last updated: April 24, 2019

Geoffrey Chaucer*
1342-1400Works: Canterbury TalesTheme: Decline of moral values, honor and chivalry.Style: Old “Middle English.” Wrote in southern English Dialect.Important Info: Considered the first great English poet.

John Skelton*
1460-1529Works: Garlande of Laurell, Bowge of Court.

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Theme: Satire against court, the pope, and Cardinal.Style: Short lines, perfectly rhymed, called Skeltonics.Important Info: Poet laureate of England.

Tutor to Henry VIII.

Henry Howard-Earl of Surrey
1517-1547Works: Two Translations of Virgil’s Aenid. Created the first English sonnets, which Shakespeare later used.Theme: Style: Used the Sonnet form of poetryImportant Info: Executed for being Catholic. Known as the “Father of the English Sonnet”

Arthur Golding
1536-1605Works: Translations from Latin into English, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Caesar’s Commentaries, and John Calvin’s works.Theme: Wrote from other famous works.

Style: Uncommon for the day, he translated even “pagan” works like Metamorphoses.Important Info: Calvinist who primarily translated Protestant texts.

George Gascoigne
1539-1678Works: A Discourse of the Adventures of Master FJ, The Supposes (first English comedy play), and an essay on English verse.Theme: None in particularStyle: Wrote essay, poems, fiction, and drama.Important Info: Considered most important Renaissance poet, since there were few of note.

Edmund Spenser*
1552-1599Works: The Faerie QueeneTheme: Allegory of morality and virtueStyle: Long epic poems, using archaic language and rhymeImportant Info: Created a distinctive verse form, the Spenserian stanza.

Richard Hooker
1554-1600Works: Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Politics.

Theme: Theology, defended the church of England against both Catholicism and Puritanism.Style: Let scripture speak for itself.Important Info: Major theologian.

Sir Phillip Sidney*
1554-1586Works: Arcadia, Astrophel and Stella.Theme: Love and longingStyle: Sonnets and songs about romance.

Important Info: A favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth, he was a knight, and considered “the flower of chivalry.”

Sir Walter Raleigh*
1554-1618Works: What is Our Life?, The Lie, The Passionate Shepherd to his Love, the Nymph’s Reply to The ShepherdTheme: contempt of the world in some poems, in others, romance.Style: Simple rhyme scheme, AABB. Important Info: This man is famous for much more than his writing, he was a courtier, soldier, aristocrat, and explorer.

Sir Francis Bacon*
1561-1626Works: Novum Organum, The Advancement of Learning, and essays about politics.Theme: Learning, Observation, Politics.Style: Educational.Important Info: Renaissance man who invented, wrote, philosophized, and was involved in politics.

William Shakespeare*
1565-1616Works: Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Hamlet.Theme: Romance, politics of the day.Style: Solioquy and blank verse. Impressive vocabulary!

Thomas Nashe*
1567-1601Works: The Unfortunate Traveller, Dido: Queen of Carthage.

Theme: Controversial SatireStyle: Witty, concise diction.Important Info: Wrote plays, pamphlets, poems, and stories.

John Donne*
1572-1631Works: Holy Sonnets, Of the Problems of the Soul, Problems and Paradoxes, Devotions.Theme: Love poems, and spiritual musings.Style: Classical.Important Info: This man was a eloquent pastor, and wrote of spiritual things, but after his wife’s death, his writings grew more dark.

Ben Johnson*
1573-1635Works: Volpone, The Alchemist, Every Man in His HumorTheme: Attacked the vices of the age, greed and religious hypocrisy.

Style: Drama to be performed, and masques for the courtImportant Info: Considered the leading playwright after Shakespeare.

Elizabeth Cary
1585-1639Works: The Tragedy of MiriamTheme: Historical tragedy.Style: Drama Important Info: First woman to write a play performed in England.

Robert Herrick
1591-1674Works: To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time. Hesperides.Theme: Life is short, love is beautiful, have fun.

Style: Easier to understand than contemporaries, simple ABAB rhyme scheme.Important Info: Wrote in the “carpe diem” genre, “seize the day.”

George Herbert*
1593-1633Works: The Altar, A Priest to the Temple, The Sacrifice.Theme: ReligionStyle: Hymn like poems and witty proverbs.

Important Info: Some of his poems are modern hymns, and his proverbs are sayings of today.

Samuel Rutherford*
1600-1671Works: Lex Rex, Liberty of Conscience, and letters.Theme: Controversial theology, he proposed new government forms that Locke used for U.S.

Style: He wrote devotional works and personal letters too.Important Info: “Lex, Rex” was banned and burned and he was accused of treason for it’s treasonous ideas.

John Milton*
1608-1674Works: Paradise Lost, Paradise regainedTheme: Religious works, but also wrote poetry.Important Info: He was extremely well learned, considered the most of all English poets. This author was very influential to later authors.

Richard Crashaw
1613-1649Works: Steps to the Temple, The Delights of the MusesTheme: Metaphysical religious poetry.Style: passionate to a disturbing degree.Important Info: fluent in Latin and other romantic languages. He fled to France during the English Civil War and embraced Catholicism.

Richard Baxter
1659-1691Works: The Saint’s Everlasting RestTheme: PuritanismImportant Info: Reputedly kind and conscientious, he united many ministers in ministry to the poor.

Henry Vaughan
1621-1695Works: Silex Scintillans “The World”Theme: mysticism and love of nature.

Style: poetryImportant Info: he influnced Wordsworth.

Dorothy Osborne
1627-1695Works: Letters to Sir William TempleTheme and Style: These were personal letters to her husband to be.Important Info: These letters are considered the best in English literature.

John Bunyan*
1628-1688Works: Pilgrim’s Progress, Grace Abounding (autobiography), plus many sermons.Theme: Religious allegoryStyle: Simple, easy to read, inspiring.

Important Info: Pilgrim’s Progress was the most widely read and translated book ever except the Bible.

John Dryden*
1631-1700Works: To His Sacred Majesty, To My Lord Chancellor, Marriage-a-la-Mode, All for Love.Theme: He wrote what would please the public, so he dabbled in comedic plays. He also wrote poems to honor the monarchy.Important Info: Led the way in Restoration comedy. He went to Westminster school.

Daniel Defoe*
1660-1731Works: Robinson Crusoe (over 500 bks)Theme: PoliticsStyle: Wrote first English novel, wrote for entertainment.Important Info: Was a Whig political activist and spy.

His writings reflected these views.

Mathew Prior
1664-1721Works: City Mouse and Country Mouse, The Progress of the Mind, Queen Mary.Theme: Wrote humorous lyrical poems.Style: Mimicked Horace and wrote like this master, also wrote satire.Important Info: His poem “Alma” or “The Progress of the Mind” is the longest humorous poem.

Jonathan Swift*
1667-1745Works: Gulliver’s TravelsTheme: Satirist prose.Style: wrote political pamphlets, essays and satire, as well as poems.Important Info: He published works under pseudonyms.

John Gay
1685-1732Works: The Beggar’s Opera, What d’ye call it? (dramatic skit)Theme: He wrote drama about various subjects, with numerous patrons.Important Info: Good friend of Alexander Pope.

Alexander Pope*
1688-1744Works: Rape of the Lock, translations of Homer.Style: Mastered the heroic couplet.Important Info: Considered the “Greatest poet of the Century”

James Thomson
1700-1748Works: Liberty, The Castle of Indolence.Theme: Dedicated poems to royalty Style: Poems and playwrightImportant Info: His poems were political, and therefore he fell in and out of favor.

Samuel Johnson
1709-1771Works: Dictionary of the English Language, The Idler, The Rambler, Lives of the English Poet.Theme and Style: essays, biographies, wrote for “The Gentleman’s Magazine.”Important Info: Best known for refutation of the Bishop’s Idealism.

Thomas Gray
1716-1771Works: Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard, Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes.Theme and Style: He used traditional forms like the ode with new topics.Important Info: Considered a classically focused precursor of the romantic revival

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