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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...

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...

Robert Burns

b. 1759 d. 1796

Burns started life as a ploughman in Scotland but is now one of the world’s most celebrated poets. Every January, his life is remembered with whisky, haggis, singing and dancing on Burns Night....

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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‑...

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...

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...