*Encyclopedia of THE ESSAY


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Encyclopedia of THE ESSAY

Editor
TRACY CHEVALIER
FITZROY DEARBORN PUBLISHERS
LONDON AND CHICAGO
Copyright © 1997 by
FITZROY DEARBORN PUBLISHERS
All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or
in part in any form. For information write to:
FITZROY DEARBORN PUBLISHERS
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Encyclopedia of the essay
1. Essays—Encyclopedias 2. Essays—History and criticism—Encyclopedias
I. Chevalier, Tracy, 1962–
809.4 ′003
ISBN 0-203-30368-7 Master e-book ISBN
ISBN 1-884964-30-3 (Print Edition)
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data is available.
First published in the USA and UK 1997
This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2006.
“To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to http://www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.”
Cover illustration: from the title page of Essayes by Sir William Cornwallis, the Younger; 1632 printing

CONTENTS

page
Editor’s Note vii
Advisers and Contributors ix
List of Entries xvii
Preface by Graham Good xxx
Encyclopedia of the Essay 1
Title Index 1947
General Index 2054
Notes on Advisers and Contributors 2122

EDITOR’S NOTE

The entries in this book were chosen primarily by the advisory board (listed on page ix), with advice from contributors when appropriate. Choosing what is to go in reference books is notoriously difficult. There are the subjects that must obviously have entries, and those that must obviously not. In between lies a vast block of those for which an argument can be made for or against. This is where the problems lie, and I expect our choices will inevitably raise a few quibbles.
Some gaps reflect the nature of the essay and essay scholarship rather than ignorance.
There are markedly fewer entries on women, for instance, because historically women’s opinions have not been encouraged, certainly not in written form. Moreover, when women did write they usually chose genres that made them money; the essay has not been known for being lucrative. In the 20th century women at last gained both leisure time and an authoritative voice; that change is reflected here in the greater number of entries on contemporary women writers. Nor does every country have a survey, even when there are several entries on individuals. Italian essay writing, for example, dates from Machiavelli, but there has never yet been any consideration of the Italian essay as a whole.
While the majority of the entries are biographical, in a handful of cases when an author’s oeuvre is not sufficiently essayistic to warrant an entry and yet he has written a significant individual essay, that essay has its own entry: e.g. John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding or Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism.
The Essays and Related Prose lists at the end of biographical entries are selective rather than comprehensive, listing the most important essay works; the date following the title is of first publication, followed sometimes by a modern edition. Also listed are available selections and compilations. Further reading lists have as a rule been suggested by contributors.
Names and phrases in bold throughout the text indicate topics with their own entries.
Individual essays mentioned in the text are followed by the date of first publication, either in periodical or book form, though occasionally the date written and the date published are both listed if they are far enough apart to be noteworthy.
I would like to thank the advisory board for their spirited advice which helped me launch the project, and the contributors for their enthusiasm which kept me going through the endless days and nights of it. In particular, I am grateful for the help of Melba Cuddy- Keene, who wrote the first entry (on Virginia Woolf) and showed us all the way.
Thanks go to Mark Hawkins-Dady, Susan Mackervoy, Tracey Mais, and Carol Jones for their work on various parts of the book; also to Jonathan Drori for explaining the mysteries of the computer, e-mail, and the Internet, as well as for putting up with piles of manuscript in a corner of our flat for three years. Thanks too to Lesley Henderson, longtime partner in reference crime, who could be relied on for both sound editorial advice and a good line on the sometimes absurd nature of our work.
Thanks, finally, to my editor Daniel Kirkpatrick, who taught me how to make reference books in the first place; he paid me his highest compliment by leaving me alone for two years to get on with it, and then came along and quietly corrected my many and varied mistakes, making it a better book.
It has been a pleasure rather than a trial to work on this volume. Every time I go into a bookstore and see a newly appointed Essay section I am more certain that the appearance of Encyclopedia of the Essay reflects a growing interest. It’s nice to feel relevant.
TRACY CHEVALIER

LIST OF ENTRIES

►→Chinua Achebe
►→Joseph Addison
►→Theodor W.Adorno
►→The Adventurer
►→James Agee
►→Die Akzente
►→Alain
►→Josefa Amar y Borbón
►→American Essay
►→The American Scholar
►→The Anatomy of Melancholy
►→Alfred Andersch
►→Aphorism
►→Apothegm
►→Germán Arciniegas
►→Hannah Arendt
►→Areopagitica
►→Matthew Arnold
►→Athenäum
►→The Atlantic Monthly
►→W.H.Auden
►→Australian Essay
►→Autobiographical Essay
►→Francisco Ayala
►→Manuel Azaña
►→Azorín
►→Francis Bacon
►→James Baldwin
►→Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac
►→Stanisław Barańczak
►→Roland Barthes
►→Georges Bataille
►→Charles Baudelaire
►→Pierre Bayle
►→Simone de Beauvoir
►→Max Beerbohm
►→Vissarion Belinskii
►→André Belleau
►→Andrés Bello
►→Hilaire Belloc
►→Andrei Belyi
►→Robert Benchley
►→Julien Benda
►→Frans G.Bengtsson
►→Walter Benjamin
►→Gottfried Benn
►→Max Bense
►→A.C.Benson
►→Georges Bernanos
►→Wendell Berry
►→Biography and the Essay
►→Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine
►→Aleksandr Blok
►→Rudolf Borchardt
►→Jorge Luis Borges
►→Paul Bourget
►→Boy-Żeleński
►→Jacques Brault
►→Otokar Březina
►→British Essay
►→Joseph Brodsky
►→E.K.Brown
►→Sir Thomas Browne
►→Ferdinand Brunetière
►→Stanisław Brzozowski
►→Vincent Buckley
►→Arthur Buies
►→Bulgarian Essay
►→Jacob Christoph Burckhardt
►→Edmund Burke
►→Kenneth Burke
►→John Burroughs
►→Hubert Butler
►→Michel Butor
►→José Cadalso
►→George Călinescu
►→Italo Calvino
►→Albert Camus
►→Canadian Essay (English)
►→Canadian Essay (French)
►→Antônio Cândido
►→Elias Canetti
►→Karel Čapek
►→Luis Cardoza y Aragón
►→Thomas Carlyle
►→Bliss Carman
►→Rosario Castellanos
►→Américo Castro
►→Carlo Cattaneo
►→Rosa Chacel
►→Chapter
►→Character Sketch
►→Characters
►→Chateaubriand
►→Nikolai Chernyshevskii
►→Earl of Chesterfield
►→G.K.Chesterton
►→Chinese Essay
►→Cicero
►→E.M.Cioran
►→Marcus Clarke
►→Classical Influences
►→Samuel Taylor Coleridge
►→The Compleat Angler
►→The Confessions
►→Cyril Connolly
►→Sir William Cornwallis, the Younger
►→Critical Essay
►→Benedetto Croce
►→Cuadernos Americanos
►→Euclides da Cunha
►→Ernst Robert Curtius
►→Olof von Dalin
►→Rubén Darío
►→Charles Darwin
►→Robertson Davies
►→The Defence of Poesy
►→Daniel Defoe
►→Thomas De Quincey
►→Bernard De Voto
►→Dialogue
►→Charles Dickens
►→Denis Diderot
►→Joan Didion
►→Annie Dillard
►→Discourse on Method
►→John Donne
►→Fedor Dostoevskii
►→Frederick Douglass
►→W.E.B. Du Bois
►→Charles Du Bos
►→Friedrich Dürrenmatt
►→Umberto Eco
►→Maria Edgeworth
►→The Edinburgh Review
►→John Eglinton
►→Loren Eiseley
►→Vilhelm Ekelund
►→George Eliot
►→T.S.Eliot
►→Ralph Waldo Emerson
►→Encyclopedias and the Essay
►→Hans Magnus Enzensberger
►→Erasmus
►→El Espectador
►→An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
►→Essay Film
►→An Essay of Dramatic Poesy
►→An Essay on Comedy
►→An Essay on Criticism
►→An Essay on Man
►→An Essay on the Principle of Population
►→The Examiner
►→Die Fackel
►→Familiar Essay
►→Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro
►→Vergílio Ferreira
►→Ludwig Feuerbach
►→Feuilleton
►→Johann Gottlieb Fichte
►→Henry Fielding
►→M.F.K.Fisher
►→Bernard de Fontenelle
►→E.M.Forster
►→Georg Forster
►→Benjamin Franklin
►→Paulo Freire
►→French Essay
►→Sigmund Freud
►→Gilberto Freyre
►→Max Frisch
►→Northrop Frye
►→Carlos Fuentes
►→Margaret Fuller
►→Ángel Ganivet
►→William H.Gass
►→The Georgia Review
►→German Essay
►→Mikhail Gershenzon
►→André Gide
►→Vladimir Giliarovskii
►→Lidiia Ginzburg
►→Natalia Ginzburg
►→William Godwin
►→Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
►→Oliver Goldsmith
►→Witold Gombrowicz
►→José Luis González
►→Nadine Gordimer
►→Maksim Gor’kii
►→Stephen Jay Gould
►→Remy de Gourmont
►→Baltasar Gracián
►→Antonio Gramsci
►→Günter Grass
►→Dorothy Green
►→Graham Greene
►→Die Grenzboten
►→Herman Grimm
►→Lionel Groulx
►→Francesco Guicciardini
►→Roderick Haig-Brown
►→Peter Hamm
►→Harper’s
►→Václav Havel
►→William Hazlitt
►→Gunnar Heiberg
►→Martin Heidegger
►→Pedro Henríquez Ureña
►→Zbigniew Herbert
►→Johann Gottfried Herder
►→Gustaw Herling-Grudziński
►→Aleksandr Herzen
►→Historical Essay
►→Edward Hoagland
►→Hugo von Hofmannsthal
►→Ludvig Holberg
►→Oliver Wendell Holmes
►→A.D.Hope
►→Eugenio María de Hostos
►→Irving Howe
►→Joseph Howe
►→William Dean Howells
►→Ricarda Huch
►→David Hume
►→Humorous Essay
►→Leigh Hunt
►→Aldous Huxley
►→T.H.Huxley
►→The Idler
►→Washington Irving
►→Viacheslav Ivanov
►→Henry James
►→William James
►→Japanese Essay
►→Richard Jefferies
►→Samuel Johnson
►→Journal
►→Journal des Débats
►→Journalism and the Essay
►→Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos
►→Ernst Jünger
►→Kamo no Chōmei
►→Immanuel Kant
►→Kenkō
►→Nils Kjær
►→Heinrich von Kleist
►→Leszek Kołakowski
►→Jan Kott
►→Joseph Wood Krutch
►→Jean de La Bruyère
►→Charles Lamb
►→Per Lange
►→La Rochefoucauld
►→Jean Larose
►→Mariano José de Larra
►→D.H.Lawrence
►→Stephen Leacock
►→Jean Le Moyne
►→Konstantin Leont’ev
►→Giacomo Leopardi
►→Aldo Leopold
►→Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
►→Letter
►→Primo Levi
►→C.S.Lewis
►→Liang Yuchun
►→Liberté
►→A.J.Liebling
►→Lima la horrible
►→Literary Theory and the Essay
►→Liu Zongyuan
►→Barry Lopez
►→Eduardo Lourenço
►→Lu Xun
►→Georg Lukács
►→Peter McArthur
►→Thomas Babington Macaulay
►→Mary McCarthy
►→Niccolò Machiavelli
►→Hugh MacLennan
►→Archibald MacMechan
►→Andrew Macphail
►→John McPhee
►→Salvador de Madariaga
►→Ramiro de Maeztu
►→Norman Mailer
►→Stéphane Mallarmé
►→Eduardo Mallea
►→Osip Mandel’shtam
►→Heinrich Mann
►→Thomas Mann
►→Julián Marías
►→José Carlos Mariátegui
►→Marivaux
►→Georgi Markov
►→José Martí
►→Carmen Martín Gaite
►→Harriet Martineau
►→Ezequiel Martínez Estrada
►→Karl Marx
►→Henri Massis
►→Maxim
►→Giuseppe Mazzini
►→Medical Essay
►→Meditation
►→Meditations
►→H.L.Mencken
►→Moses Mendelssohn
►→Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo
►→Thomas Merton
►→Alice Meynell
►→John Stuart Mill
►→Czesław Miłosz
►→Mary Russell Mitford
►→N.Scott Momaday
►→Carlos Monsiváis
►→Michel de Montaigne
►→Eugenio Montale
►→Juan Montalvo
►→Henry de Montherlant
►→Moral Essay
►→Christopher Morley
►→William Morris
►→Edwin Muir
►→John Muir
►→Lewis Mumford
►→Walter Murdoch
►→Robert Musil
►→Chavdar Mutafov
►→Thomas Nashe
►→Nature Essay
►→Die neue Rundschau
►→New Journalism
►→The New Yorker
►→John Henry Newman
►→Ngugi wa Thiong’o
►→Friedrich Nietzsche
►→Nouvelle Revue Française
►→Novalis
►→Nikolai Novikov
►→Victoria Ocampo
►→Alexandru Odobescu
►→Margaret Oliphant
►→On the Sublime
►→Eugenio d’Ors
►→José Ortega y Gasset
►→George Orwell
►→Fernand Ouellette
►→Ouyang Xiu
►→Cynthia Ozick
►→Thomas Paine
►→Nettie Palmer
►→Vance Palmer
►→Jacob Paludan
►→Pamphlet
►→Emilia Pardo Bazán
►→Partisan Review
►→Blaise Pascal
►→Walter Pater
►→Octavio Paz
►→Charles Péguy
►→Pensée
►→S.J.Perelman
►→Ramón Pérez de Ayala
►→Periodical Essay
►→Periodicals
►→Personal Essay
►→Philosophical Essay
►→The Physiology of Taste
►→Mariano Picón-Salas
►→Plato
►→Plutarch
►→The Poetic Art
►→Polemical Essay
►→Polish Essay
►→Portuguese Essay
►→Ezra Pound
►→Preface
►→J.B.Priestley
►→V.S.Pritchett
►→Propaganda
►→Aleksandr Pushkin
►→The Quarterly Review
►→The Rambler
►→Leopold von Ranke
►→Herbert Read
►→Religious Essay
►→Ernest Renan
►→Reportage
►→Agnes Repplier
►→Rêverie
►→Review
►→A Review of the Affairs of France
►→Revista de Occidente
►→Revue des Deux Mondes
►→Kenneth Rexroth
►→Alfonso Reyes
►→Adrienne Rich
►→Mordecai Richler
►→José Enrique Rodó
►→Jean-Jacques Rousseau
►→Vasilii Rozanov
►→John Ruskin
►→Russian Essay
►→Ernesto Sabato
►→Oliver Sacks
►→Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve
►→Saint-Évremond
►→Saltykov-Shchedrin
►→Scott Russell Sanders
►→George Santayana
►→Domingo Faustino Sarmiento
►→Jean-Paul Sartre
►→Satire
►→Satiric Essay
►→Scandinavian Essay
►→Friedrich von Schiller
►→Friedrich Schlegel
►→Arthur Schopenhauer
►→Rudolf Alexander Schröder
►→Science Essay
►→Sei Shōnagon
►→Richard Selzer
►→Seneca
►→Sermon
►→Michel Serrès
►→Madame de Sévigné
►→Earl of Shaftesbury
►→George Bernard Shaw
►→Percy Bysshe Shelley
►→Lev Shestov
►→Viktor Shklovskii
►→Georg Simmel
►→Andrei Siniavskii
►→Pencho Slaveikov
►→Sociological Essay
►→El Sol
►→Vladimir Soloukhin
►→Vladimir Solov’ev
►→Knud Sønderby
►→Susan Sontag
►→Villy Sørensen
►→Robert Southey
►→Sovremennik
►→Wole Soyinka
►→Spanish Essay
►→Spanish American Essay
►→The Spectator (1711–12, 1714)
►→The Spectator (1828–)
►→Madame de Staël
►→Richard Steele
►→Wallace Stegner
►→N.Steinhardt
►→Jerzy Stempowski
►→Leslie Stephen
►→Robert Louis Stevenson
►→Lytton Strachey
►→Su Shi
►→Sur
►→Margarete Susman
►→Jonathan Swift
►→Hippolyte Taine
►→The Tatler
►→Sir William Temple
►→Der Teutsche Merkur
►→William Makepeace Thackeray
►→Albert Thibaudet
►→Lewis Thomas
►→Henry David Thoreau
►→James Thurber
►→Enrique Tierno Galván
►→Times Literary Supplement
►→Lev Tolstoi
►→Topical Essay
►→Diego de Torres Villarroel
►→Tract
►→Travel Essay
►→Treatise
►→Lionel Trilling
►→Pierre Trottier
►→Marina Tsvetaeva
►→Ivan Turgenev
►→Mark Twain
►→Kenneth Tynan
►→Miguel de Unamuno
►→John Updike
►→Ludvík Vaculík
►→Pierre Vadeboncoeur
►→Paul Valéry
►→Benedetto Varchi
►→José Vasconcelos
►→Gore Vidal
►→Voltaire
►→Alice Walker
►→Max Weber
►→The Week
►→Simone Weil
►→Die weissen Blätter
►→Rebecca West
►→E.B.White
►→Christoph Martin Wieland
►→Oscar Wilde
►→Edmund Wilson
►→Christa Wolf
►→Tom Wolfe
►→Mary Wollstonecraft
►→Virginia Woolf
►→Judith Wright
►→William Butler Yeats
►→Yuan Hongdao
►→María Zambrano
►→Leopoldo Zea
►→Zhang Dai
►→Zhou Zuoren
►→Xavier Zubiri

►→Notes On Advisers And Contributors

PREFACE

An encyclopedia of the essay sounds at first like a paradoxical enterprise: how can the essay’s elusive multiplicity of forms and themes be contained within the systematic scope of an encyclopedia? The essay is often characterized by its spontaneity, its unpredictability, its very lack of system. Yet precisely these qualities have made it the little noticed (though much practiced) of the literary genres, and hence the most in need of some kind of comprehensive guide. Of course there can be no complete mapping of such a diverse literary form: to define all of its varieties and enumerate all its practitioners would take a much larger volume than this. Nevertheless, the Encyclopedia of the Essay does bring together the essential information for exploring this protean form of writing, and each entry has a section of suggestions for further reading.
The Encyclopedia does not apply a rigid, exclusive definition of what is or is not an essay, nor does it aim at exhaustive cataloguing of every author who has ever written an essay. Rather, it provides several types of entry as ways to access the vast and heterogeneous field of essayistic writing: 1) generic—considerations of different types of essay (moral essay, travel essay, autobiographical essay, for example) and different adjacent forms (aphorism, chapter, feuilleton, sermon, and so on); 2) national—entries on the major national traditions (French, British, Japanese, for example); 3) individual— entries on those writers who have produced a significant body of work in the genre. In addition, there is consideration of 4) the significance of periodicals in creating a market for essay writing, and entries on particularly important journals, along with 5) a few entries on especially significant single essays. Those interested in the theory of the essay are referred to the entries on Lukács, Adorno, and Bense—curiously, in view of the fact that the European essay first established itself in France and England, the theorists of the genre have come mainly from the Germanic cultural sphere. The four main categories of entry—formal, national, individual, and periodical—give four different routes into the territory of essayistic literature.
Despite the huge variety of its forms, there are certain features which recur often enough to give the word “essay” a specific though not rigid meaning. Generally it is used of nonfictional prose texts of between one and about 50 pages, though in some cases book-length works are also called essays. The term also frequently connotes a certain quality of approach to a topic, variously characterized as provisional and exploratory, rather than systematic and definitive. The essay can be contrasted with the academic article, which is usually a contribution to a recognized discipline and to a collaborative inquiry, previous inquiries being taken account of by means of quotations and footnotes.
The essay tends to be personal rather than collaborative in its approach, and usually lacks this kind of scholarly apparatus. The essayist’s authority is not based on formal credentials or academic expertise, but on his or her personality as reflected in the style of writing. Persuasiveness is based on distinctiveness of style rather than on the use of an accepted professional or technical vocabulary. The essay typically eschews specialized jargon and is addressed to the “general reader” in a friendly, informal tone. It also avoids the application of pre-established methodology to particular cases, but rather works from the particular toward the general, and even then is not concerned to produce conclusions applicable to other cases. Its concerns are personal and particular, more than professional and systematic.
Nevertheless, the essay can flourish around the margins of academic disciplines or at their origins. A topic that initially forms the subject matter of essays can later be treated within a discipline. For example, many of Freud’s short texts are classics of essayistic inquiry, even though Freud considered them contributions to a systematic science of psychoanalysis, despite their literary references and style. Within the European context, the modern essay originated at the same time as modern science, in the late 16th century, and shares many characteristics with it, chiefly the stress on empirical investigation rather than on established authorities such as Aristotle. Bacon, the founder of the English essay, was also the first writer to lay out a program for what we now call science. Yet as science became collectively organized it tended to become less essayistic. The essay stayed on the margins of science, as a vehicle either for unorthodox speculations or for communicating some of science’s results to a non-specialist audience, as in the writings of Stephen Jay Gould and others. Another example of an essayistic topic being institutionalized is Cultural Studies. Essayists like Robert Louis Stevenson and George Orwell wrote about “penny dreadful” comics, dirty postcards, and pulp fiction long before these topics were taken up in the academy and made into the matter of research within a new discipline.
Literary theory is another interesting case. Informal speculative essays like T.S.Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” or Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” can acquire almost canonical status within academic theory, even though they were produced outside that context. Roland Barthes wrote highly theoretical works, but also quite personal, semi-autobiographical essays. Current literary theory seems partly in tune with the essay in the common stress on the provisional, unfixed nature of meaning, yet out of sympathy with the essayistic assumptions of a distinctive, autonomous personality and a concretely rendered reality.
The essay can provide a home for academics wanting a broader context and a wider audience for their work. Some who begin their writing within a disciplinary framework later move outside it into essayistic inquiry. Philosophy provides several examples.
Heidegger moved from systematic philosophy to short poetic meditations and essays on poets like Hölderlin, Benn, and Rilke. Nietzsche forsook academia altogether and devised his own form of essayistic philosophy-writing which has paradoxically become influential in academia once again (though in literature rather than philosophy departments). Although academics can also be essayists, many essayists have been independent writers, without academic affiliations.
Besides its ambivalent relations with institutional discourses, the essay is also usually perceived as marginal to other literary genres. Just as the essay is considered to be “not quite” science or philosophy or theory, it is also “not quite” art. At least, it is not perceived “great” art, since it is a seemingly “minor” form. Many, perhaps most, essayists have made their reputations in other genres. The example of Montaigne, who founded the essay form and wrote in it almost exclusively, was not followed often.
Essayists are commonly also poets, philosophers, theorists, and so on, though usually this statement is put the other way round: poets and the others are also essayists. This way of stating the matter reflects the ancillary or secondary status of the essay as the least prestigious of the literary forms. T.S.Eliot’s essays have had as much influence as his poetry, yet they have had much less attention as literary works in their own right.
Virginia Woolf’s essays are at least as important as her fiction, yet they are still often used as a quarry for insights into the fiction. Orwell’s essays are of higher literary quality than many of his novels, yet the prestige of the fictional form means that they are relatively neglected.
There are, however, signs that this critical neglect is ending, in the publication of works such as my own book The Observing Self: Rediscovering the Essay (London and New York: Routledge, 1988) and Claire de Obaldia’s The Essayistic Spirit: Literature, Modern Criticism, and the Essay (Oxford: Clarendon Press, and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), as well as a number of shorter studies listed in the bibliographical entries. This renewal of critical interest coincides with the continuing flourishing of the genre itself. The number of current or recent essayists included in this encyclopedia testifies to the vitality of the form, which has seen as rich a harvest in the 20th century as in any of the preceding ones. Many of the most famous Modernist authors, like T.S. Eliot, D.H.Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, Paul Valéry, and W.H.Auden have left outstanding collections of essays, while among contemporaries, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, Barry Lopez, or Stephen Jay Gould could be cited among many others as skilled practitioners of the art. Moreover, the success of recent anthologies such as John Gross’ The Oxford Book of Essays (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), Phillip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay (New York: Doubleday, 1994), and Robert Atwan’s The Best American Essays series (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986–) indicates that there is an appetite among the general public for essays.
The Encyclopedia reflects the geographical and historical concentration of the essay form in the Euro-American world from Montaigne to the present. But the classical antecedents of the form in Greece and Rome are also noted in several entries, and the global dimension of the form is also amply represented. The Japanese and Chinese essay each receive an entry, contrasting the prose forms which predate Montaigne with the later Western-influenced types of essay. In the 20th century the list of individual authors treated includes African, Australian, Asian, as well as European and North and South American writers. The range of locations of contributors to the Encyclopedia also reflects the breadth of interest in the form. The essay has become truly global as the preconditions for it become more widespread: a sufficient number of suitable periodicals, a regime which tolerates criticism, an informed general readership, and writers who cultivate a distinctive, individual view of culture.
At heart, the essay is the voice of the individual. Wherever that is heard and heeded, the essay will flourish. Orwell in the 1940s pessimistically foresaw the perishing of the essay (and other forms of realistic prose, such as the novel) in the coming age of totalitarianism. The success of his own essays, particularly “Politics and the English Language,” in the postwar period disproved his prediction, at least temporanly. This Encyclopedia, besides providing a guide to the enormous richness of the essay’s past and present, is also a good augury for its continuing vitality in the future.
GRAHAM GOOD

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