Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 in Steventon, England. She was the child of a reverend, the sixth of seven children, five boys and two girls. She grew up in a very close-knit family, bonding with her father and brother, Henry, who would become her literary agent. She was educated at boarding school where she learned subjects of the time such as French, music and dancing. She was further educated by her own reading thanks to her father's extensive library. By 1787, Jane had become interested in creating her own works. After boarding school she started a draft of First Impressions, which would become her most influential and enduring novel, Pride and Prejudice. Her other famous works include Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Mansfield Park. Her works include memorable characters that usually include a strong, central female figure. Her popular love stories reflect her own experience of thwarted love and the tension between socioeconomic classes. She passed away on July 18, 1817. Read more here!
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England. He was born to a poor family. His father was sent to prison for debt when Charles was only 12 years old. In order to support his family, Charles was forced to quit school and work in a factory. He felt a sense of abandonment from the adults that were supposed to care for him, and this theme would later appear in his writing. By the time he was 18, he was reporting for two major London newspapers. He became publishing popular sketches, which helped him meet his wife who would bear him ten children. He also became publisher of a magazine called Bentley's Miscellany, where he first started publishing his popular novel, Oliver Twist. The novel follows the life of an orphan living in the streets. It gained popularity in both England and America. During his first tour of the US, he voiced his disapproval of slavery and wrote a critique of American materialism and culture. His work turned dark after the death of his father and sister and his separation from his wife. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations were published after this period and the latter is widely considered his greatest literary accomplishment. He died of a stroke on June 9, 1870. Read more here!
Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. His early life is somewhat of a mystery, which is ironic because he is often called the Father of the Detective Story. His parents were actors but they were out of his life early on and Poe lived with foster parents John and Frances Allan. Money was an issue with his foster father and caused him to leave the University of Virginia in 1826. He also attended West Point Military Academy but was dismissed. At the same time, he started publishing poetry. After leaving the academy, he began focusing on writing full time. He moved around before settling with his aunt and young cousin, whom inspired some of his works and eventually became his wife. In the late 1830s he published Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, a collection of spine-tingling short stories. His most famous work is his poem, "The Raven." In the work, Poe explored some of his common themes—death and loss. An unknown narrator laments the demise of his great love Lenore. Poe experienced similar lament at the death of his beloved wife, Virginia. Plagued by alcoholism, his death is also shrouded in mystery. He died on October 7, 1849. His last words were "Lord, help my poor soul." Read more here!
Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9, 1828 in Tula Province, Russia. He was the youngest of four boys. He lost both of his parents and his aunt early on but his memories of childhood were idealized in his writing. Tolstoy failed as a Oriental language student, then as a law student, and as a farmer before becoming a junker for the Army. His daily journal served as inspiration for his literary works. In the 1860s, he wrote his first great novel, War and Peace. In 1873, Tolstoy set to work on the second of his best known novels, Anna Karenina. He continued to write fiction throughout the 1880s and 1890s. One of his most successful later works was The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Tolstoy died on November 20, 1910 in Astapovo, Russia. Read more here!