1 - 20 of 53 results


Joanna Baillie

Joanna Baillie

b. 1762 d. 1851

Baillie was a Scottish playwright, critic and poet who lived most of her life in Hampstead, where she was the centre of a rich literary culture. Born into a family of physicians and the daughter of a...
William Barnes

William Barnes

b. 1801 d. 1866

William Barnes was a Dorset‑dialect poet and artist. An extremely learned man with knowledge of many languages, he worked for some time as a schoolteacher, running his own schools with his wife,...
Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn

b. 1640 d. 1689

Aphra Behn was the first female writer to make her living through her art; she was a significant seventeenth‑century dramatist,The Rover being one of her best‑known plays. Little is known of her...
Robert Bridges

Robert Bridges

b. 1844 d. 1930

Robert Bridges was a trained doctor working in London hospitals until 1882, a classicist and poet who served as Poet Laureate from 1913 until his death in 1930. Educated at Eton and Corpus Christi...
Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll

b. 1832 d. 1898

Lewis Carroll was the literary pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, born in 1832, the third in a family of eleven children; he had seven younger sisters. In childhood, he produced magazines for his...
James Carter

James Carter

b. 1959

An award-winning children’s poet, guitarist and writer-in-schools, James Carter lives with his family in Oxfordshire. He travels throughout the UK and abroad with his guitar (called Keith) to schools...
G.K Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton

b. 1874 d. 1936

Chesterton is probably best known for his popular priest-detective Father Brown, who appeared in over fifty short stories. However, he was also a poet, biographer, essayist, dramatist, critic,...
Arthur Hugh Clough

Arthur Hugh Clough

b. 1819 d. 1861

Clough suffered from periods of religious doubt throughout his life. His inability to subscribe to the Thirty‑nine Articles, which detailed the beliefs of the Church of England, meant that he felt...
Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

b. 1861 d. 1907

Intellectually gifted Mary Coleridge was the great-grand‑niece of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Her parents were impressively well connected to writers and musicians in the London of the last half of the...
William Cowper

William Cowper

b. 1731 d. 1800

William Cowper was a popular poet and writer of hymns. His descriptions of everyday life in the English countryside changed nature writing in the eighteenth century, in many ways preparing the ground...
John Dryden

John Dryden

b. 1631 d. 1700

John Dryden was one of the dominant literary figures of the English Restoration period. He began his prolific and versatile writing career in the Puritan era before Charles II became king, and wrote...
Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

b. 1872 d. 1906

Dunbar was one of the first African-American poets to be widely known and admired in America. His parents were freed slaves and Dunbar used some of their tales of plantation life in his work.
After a...
Anne Finch

Anne Finch

b. 1661 d. 1720

Anne Finch was an aristocrat acquainted with the most famous poet of the age, Alexander Pope. However, during her lifetime, her poetry was little known and would have remained obscure had not William...
Adam Foulds

Adam Foulds

b. 1974

Adam Foulds (born 1974) is a poet and novelist who writes with striking range and ambition. His verse novella, The Broken Word won the Costa Poetry Prize in 2008. By then, Foulds had already won the...
Thomas Gray

Thomas Gray

b. 1716 d. 1771

Written over several years in the 1740s, Gray’s elegy was eventually published in 1751 and enjoyed phenomenal popularity for the next two hundred years.
Gray was a versatile poet. He wrote elegant...
Harry Guest

Harry Guest

b. 1932

Harry Guest was born in Wales in 1932. After four years at Malvern College, he read Modern Languages at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, before attending the Sorbonne, where he wrote a thesis on Stéphane...

Ivor Gurney

b. 1890 d. 1937

Ivor Gurney suffered periods of mental ill health before the First World War, but his condition had deteriorated significantly by the end of the conflict. He had joined up after initially being...

Lee Harwood

b. 1939 d. 2015

Lee Harwood was one of the leading poets of his generation. Born in Leicester in 1939, he grew up in Chertsey, Surrey. He studied English at Queen Mary College, University of London, and soon became...
Felicia Hemans

Felicia Hemans

b. 1793 d. 1835

Felicia Hemans’s ‘Casabianca’ took on such a vibrant life of its own after her death that, somehow, its author became almost irrelevant. In fact, Hemans was an accomplished and prolific poet who...
W.E Henley

W. E. Henley

b. 1849 d. 1903

‘Invictus’ has ensured that Henley is a significant Victorian literary figure, but the phenomenal popularity of this one poem has perhaps led to the neglect of his other work. In fact, Henley was an...
A. E. Housman

A E Housman

b. 1859 d. 1936

Alfred Edward Housman, the eldest son of a Bromsgrove solicitor, was born in 1859. He attended Bromsgrove School as a dayboy, but soon after he started there his mother fell ill and his father sank...

Anthony Howell

b. 1945

Anthony Howell is a poet, novelist and performance artist, whose first collection of poems, Inside the Castle, was published in 1969. He has since published 17 volumes of poetry (among them...
Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson

b. 1709 d. 1784

Samuel Johnson is a towering figure in the history of English literature, to the extent that the second half of the eighteenth century has sometimes been described as ‘the age of Johnson’. He was a...
Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson

b. 1572 d. 1637

Jonson was a skilful satirist of contemporary society, producing Volpone for the stage in 1606 and The Alchemist in 1610. It is highly likely that Shakespeare would have appeared in a production of...
Henry King

Henry King

b. 1592 d. 1669

The son of an influential Bishop of London, Henry King followed in his father’s footsteps to pursue a career in the Church, which culminated in his appointment as Bishop of Chichester, a position he...
D. H. Lawrence

D. H. Lawrence

b. 1885 d. 1930

A miner’s son from Nottingham, Lawrence was a prolific writer of short stories, essays, poems and novels before his death at the age of forty‑four in 1930. He was a rebellious, restless and polemical...
Mary Leapor

Mary Leapor

b. 1722 d. 1746

In spite of needing to earn a living as a kitchen maid and her death from measles at the age of twenty‑four, Mary Leapor left behind a substantial body of work. Her poetry has increasingly come to be...
Amy Levy

Amy Levy

b. 1861 d. 1889

Amy Levy was one of seven children born to a wealthy Anglo‑Jewish family. She was in many ways a pioneering woman, becoming the first Jewish woman ever to study at Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1879...
Thomas Love Peacock

Thomas Love Peacock

b. 1785 d. 1866

Thomas Love Peacock is probably best known today for his hilarious Nightmare Abbey, which cheerfully satirizes the interest of contemporary literature in morbid subjects and gothic settings. Some of...
George Meredith

George Meredith

b. 1828 d. 1909

George Meredith was a Victorian poet, author and journalist. He published eighteen novels between 1856 and his death in 1909 and, although many had limited commercial and critical success,The Egoist...
Charlotte Mew

Charlotte Mew

b. 1869 d. 1928

Charlotte Mew was surrounded by mental ill health and death from a young age. Three brothers died while she was still a child and two other siblings were committed to mental institutions. She vowed...
Hannah More

Hannah More

b. 1745 d. 1833

Hannah More’s poem was written in support of William Wilberforce’s campaign to abolish slavery. A passionate, poetic explanation of the anti-abolitionists’ argument, this extract is part of a 294‑...
E. Nesbit

E. Nesbit

b. 1858 d. 1924

Edith Nesbit was a prolific author of over forty books for children, including the enduringly popular The Railway Children.
Her lifestyle, especially for a middle‑class Victorian woman, was highly...
Katherine Philips

Katherine Philips

b. 1632 d. 1664

Katherine Philips started writing soon after her marriage in 1647, aged sixteen, to James Philips. He was a prominent supporter of the Parliamentary cause, whereas Katherine enthusiastically welcomed...
Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

b. 1688 d. 1744

Pope was born into a Catholic family in 1688, the year of The Glorious Revolution, when Catholics could not live in London - the centre of literary life – or attend university. At the age of twelve...
Adelaide Anne Procter

Adelaide Anne Procter

b. 1825 d. 1864

Adelaide Anne Proctor’s father was a poet, and her mother actively encouraged her daughter’s interest in poetry. She submitted her early work to Charles Dickens’s publication Household Words under...
Walter Ralegh

Walter Ralegh

b. 1552 d. 1618

As a successful military adventurer and explorer, author and poet, Ralegh was a significant figure in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. He took expeditions to the New World, searching for El Dorado,...
Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson

b. 1757 d. 1800

Mary Robinson was a gifted musician, champion of the rights of women, novelist, poet and actress. She was born in Bristol to a wealthy family and received a good education, but her marriage to the...
Neil Rollinson

Neil Rollinson

b. 1960

Neil Rollinson’s poetry has been noted for its eroticism, and certainly the earlier collections are dominated by sensual encounters of various kinds. His subject matter also takes in science and...

James Sheard

James Sheard was born in Cyprus in 1962, and spent his childhood abroad, mainly in Singapore and Germany. As an adult, he spent periods living in Hamburg and Helsinki. He is the author of two full...
Philip Sidney

Philip Sidney

b. 1554 d. 1586

A poet, soldier and courtier, Philip Sidney was one of the most celebrated figures of the Elizabethan age. He was a member of a distinguished and talented family; his sister, Mary, the Countess of...
Mary Sidney Herbert

Mary Sidney Herbert

b. 1561 d. 1621

Mary Sidney Herbert was an influential and talented poet, translator and patron of the arts in Elizabethan England. She was also the sister of the courtier and poet Philip Sidney. She completed the...
Christopher Smart

Christopher Smart

b. 1722 d. 1771

Christopher Smart was born in 1722 and is best remembered for his religious poems A Song to David and Jubilate Agno, both of which were written during his time at St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics,...
Robert Southey

Robert Southey

b. 1774 d. 1843

Robert Southey was an independently minded young man who was expelled from Westminster School for opposing flogging. He developed radical religious and political ideas and, at one stage, considered...
Robert Southwell

Robert Southwell

b. 1561 d. 1595

Southwell wrote most of his poems and prose when working as an underground Jesuit priest in Protestant England at a time when an active Catholic priest’s chances of survival were no more than one in...
Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser

b. 1553 d. 1599

Edmund Spenser is often mentioned alongside Shakespeare, Marlowe and Donne as one of the greatest poets of the Elizabethan period.
He is probably best known for his long, allegorical epic poem, The...
Pauline Stainer

Pauline Stainer

b. 1941

Pauline Stainer is an English poet, born in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. After attending St Anne's College, Oxford, she moved to Essex, where she raised four children. After several years on the Orkney...
Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift

b. 1667 d. 1745

Born in Ireland in 1667, Swift spent much of his adult life in England. He was actively involved in politics, and in his self-penned epitaph describes himself as a ‘champion of liberty’. He was a...
Algernon Swinburne

Algernon Swinburne

b. 1837 d. 1909

Swinburne came from an aristocratic background and drew on a wide range of influences and interests from an early age, including Elizabethan dramatists, Greek and Latin poets and French writers. He...
Chidiock Tichborne

Chidiock Tichborne

b. 1562 d. 1586

Chidiock Tichborne was part of the Babington plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. When the Protestant Elizabeth came to the throne, Catholics such as Tichborne had a degree of freedom to practise...
Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

b. 1854 d. 1900

Wilde’s imprisonment for homosexuality in 1895 ended a spectacularly successful career. Although he lived for a few more years in exile in France after his release and produced some moving poetry,...
John Wilmot Earl of Rochester

John Wilmot Earl of Rochester

b. 1647 d. 1680

John Wilmot was born in 1647, the son of Henry Wilmot, a celebrated Royalist who had led the cavalry at the Battle of Edgehill. Henry helped the young Prince Charles escape to France after the...
Jane Yeh

Jane Yeh

b. 1971

Jane Yeh is an American poet who has lived in England for over a decade. Born in New Jersey, she was educated at Harvard University, the University of Iowa—where she took an MFA at the prestigious...

Starting points

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A tour of the Archive with Andrew Motion

My short tour of the Poetry Archive is designed to show its range, as well as the strength-in-depth of its holdings...

Featured Guided Tours


Enjoy new recordings of classic poems from the past read by contemporary poets

Sonnet 33

William Shakespeare

read by Mimi Khalvati

London Snow

Robert Bridges

read by Jacob Sam-La Rose