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Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold

b. 1822 d. 1888

Matthew Arnold was born in 1822, the son of the celebrated headmaster of Rugby, Thomas Arnold. Matthew attended Balliol College, Oxford and was a close friend of an older fellow Rugbeian, the poet...
Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Anna Laetitia Barbauld

b. 1743 d. 1825

Anna Barbauld (nee Aikin) was born in 1743, daughter of a nonconformist minister and schoolmaster, who taught her to read English before she was three and to master French, Italian, Latin and Greek...
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,...
William Blake

William Blake

b. 1757 d. 1827

William Blake was born in London in 1757 and spent most of his long life there. The son of a hosier, he left ordinary school at the age of ten to join a drawing school, and at fourteen became...
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...
Emily Bronte

Emily Bronte

b. 1818 d. 1848

Emily Bronte was born in 1818, the daughter of Irishman Patrick Bronte, perpetual curate of Haworth, Yorkshire. Emily's mother died in 1821, leaving five daughters and a son to the care of their aunt...
Robert Browning

Robert Browning

b. 1812 d. 1889

Robert Browning was born in South London in 1812. He was largely self-educated, utilising his father's extensive library of over six thousand volumes. A voracious reader, Browning would later draw on...
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

b. 1806 d. 1861

Elizabeth Barrett was born in 1806, the eldest of twelve children of Edward Barrett, whose fortune was derived from Jamaican plantations. She was largely self-educated at home: something of a prodigy...
Lord Byron

Lord Byron

b. 1788 d. 1824

George Byron was born in 1788 with a deformed foot: he limped all his life. His father was 'Mad Jack' Byron, an infamous adventurer who abandoned his wife and family in 1790 and died in 1791. At the...
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...
C.P Cavafy

C. P. Cavafy

b. 1863 d. 1933

Cavafy is widely considered to be one of the greatest Greek poets of the twentieth century. A perfectionist as regards his work, which he constantly revised, he published only 154 poems in his...
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,...
John Clare

John Clare

b. 1793 d. 1864

John Clare, the son of a casual labourer, was born in Helpstone, Northamptonshire. His twin sister died a few weeks after their birth and he was brought up in poverty, only attending school very...
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...
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

b. 1772 d. 1874

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in 1772, the tenth and youngest child of the schoolmaster of the country town of Ottery St Mary. After the death of his father he attended Christ's Hospital School...
Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

b. 1830 d. 1886

Only seven of Emily Dickinson's poems were published in her lifetime; these were heavily edited. Many of the rest were found after her death, in little packets bound together to make small books....
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...
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...
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins

b. 1844 d. 1889

Gerard Hopkins was born in 1844, went to Highgate School and won a scholarship to Balliol College Oxford where he took a double first in Classics. He then entered the Society of Jesus and, feeling...
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...
John Keats

John Keats

b. 1795 d. 1828

Keats was born in London in 1795. His father was killed in a riding accident when Keats was eight; his mother died six years later, probably from tuberculosis. The loss of his parents, especially of...
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...
Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell

b. 1874 d. 1925

Amy Lowell was born into an affluent Massachusetts family and educated at home and in private schools in Boston. Her financial resources helped her develop a liberated and unconventional lifestyle....
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...
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...
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...
Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti

b. 1830 d. 1894

Many readers first come across Christina Rossetti as the writer of the words of the carol 'In the Bleak Midwinter', or the deceptively simple, but actually strange and powerful, fairy tale in verse,...
Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley

b. 1792 d. 1822

Shelley was born at Field Place, near Horsham, the eldest son of Sir Timothy Shelley, MP for the Duke of Norfolk's pocket borough of Shoreham-by-sea. Shelley was educated at Eton, where he was known...
Charlotte Smith

Charlotte Smith

b. 1749 d. 1806

Charlotte Turner was born in 1749 into the landed gentry. Her father owned two prosperous estates, Stoke Place in Surrey and Bignor Park in Sussex, but gambling losses destroyed his fortune; aged...
Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson

b. 1850 d. 1894

Born in Scotland, Stevenson was an unconventional and adventurous novelist, poet, essayist, short‑story and travel writer with a remarkable gift for captivating story‑telling. Some of his prose works...
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...
Alfred Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson

b. 1809 d. 1892

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, the third surviving son of a rector whose violent alcoholism blighted the family home. Tennyson went to Cambridge where he met Arthur...
Frederick Tuckerman

Frederick Tuckerman

b. 1821 d. 1873

Tuckerman’s beloved wife died in childbirth, and a powerful sense of grief and loss permeates many of his poems. He was a poet of the outdoors, spending much time wandering through the woods and...
Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

b. 1819 d. 1892

At various times, Walt Whitman was a teacher, a journalist, a government official and a clerk. He also spent a significant period in his life working in the hospitals of the American Civil War, and...
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,...
Charles Wolfe

Charles Wolfe

b. 1791 d. 1823

Charles Wolfe was an Irish priest and poet who is best remembered for this extremely popular elegy, which has appeared in many anthologies of poetry throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries...
William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

b. 1770 d. 1850

Wordsworth was born at Cockermouth, Cumbria, in 1770, the son of an attorney. Both parents were dead by the time he was thirteen, a loss recorded in the early part of 'The Prelude' where he describes...

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

Epitaph on a Hare

William Cowper

read by Andrew Motion

The Tyger

William Blake

read by Mimi Khalvati