Ten Great English Essays

Francis Bacon, “Of Cunning”

(from Essays, 1612)

John Milton, “Areopagitica”

(from The Complete Works, 1644)

Joseph Addison, “On the Pleasures of the Imagination”

(from The Spectator, nos. 411-412, 1712)

Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal”

(from The Collected Works, 1729)

Samuel Johnson, “On Spring”

(from The Collected Works, 1750)

Charles Lamb, “Witches, and Other Night Fears”

(from Essays of Elia, 1823)

William Hazlitt, “On the Pleasure of Hating”

(from On the Pleasures of Hating, 1823)

Thomas De Quincey, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts”

(from The Collected Essays, 1827)

Virginia Woolf, “22 Hyde Park Gate”

(from the diaries, 1922)

George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”

(from Selected Writings, 1936)

Ten Great American Essays

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

(from Essays, 1844)

Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom-House”

(from The Scarlet Letter, 1850)

Henry David Thoreau, “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”

(from Walden, 1854)

Agnes Repplier, “Opinions”

(from The Atlantic Monthly, 1894)

E. B. White, “Once More to the Lake”

(from Harper’s, 1941)

Mary McCarthy, “Artists in Uniform: A Story”

(from Harper’s, March 1953)

James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son”

(from Notes of a Native Son, 1955)

Loren Eisley, “The Star Thrower”

(from The Star Thrower, 1969)

Joan Didion, “The White Album”

(from The White Album, 1979)

Annie Dillard, “Total Eclipse”

(from Teaching a Stone to Talk, 1982)


Robert Atwan has edited over 30 books, including Ten on Ten: Major Essayists on Recurring Themes, Convergences, The Writer’s Presence, The Mind of Winter, The Language of Spring, The Heart of Autumn, and the highly influential and long-running Best American Essayseries, which Atwan founded in 1986 and continues to edit. The director of the Blue Hills Writing Institute at Curry College in Massachusetts, his work has been published in numerous journals, including The New York Times, The Denver Quarterly, The Los Angeles Times, River Teeth, and The Atlantic Monthly. Ever the master anthologist, Atwan couldn’t resist offering two different lists of his favorite essays.

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