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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 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...

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...

John Donne

b. 1572 d. 1631

John Donne was the greatest non-dramatic poet of his time, and its most admired preacher. He was born in 1571, a Londoner and the son of Catholic parents. In his teens, he attended both Oxford and...

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...

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...

John Milton

b. 1608 d. 1674

John Milton was born in 1608 in Bread Street, Cheapside, the son of a composer and scrivener. He was educated at St Paul's School and Christ's College, Cambridge and seemed destined for the...

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

b. 1689 d. 1762

Mary Pierrepont was born in 1689, the first child of the Earl of Kingston. Her mother died in 1694 and Mary was groomed to become hostess and housekeeper for her father, then a Whig MP. Her tasks...

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,...

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...