INTRODUCTION: Essay is short composition in prose. It discusses, either formally or informally, one or more topics. This term was first applied to a Montaign's volumn of informal pieces. This volumn was published in 1580. Seventeen years later, Francis Bacon used the English word' essay' to describe his brief philosophic discourses. With the development of periodical, the essay became a popular form. Addison, Steel, Lamb, Hazlitt and Pater made it their major concern.

CHARACTERISTICS: The literary essay has some important characteristics. It is a prose composition of moderate length. It is incomplete and it is not exhaustive. It is personal in nature. It is unsystematic and it lacks finish. According to Bacon 'a good essay must have a grain of salt within it'. It should be attractive and charming. It should have a touch of humour also. On the basis of its chief characteristics, the essay may be of the following types:

[1] The Personal Essay: In the Personal Essay the personal element predominates. Charles Lamb is known as the greatest writer of personal essay in English Literature. There is no formal or logical development of thought in an essay. The various points are mentioned in a hapzard manner. Its author likes to enjoy the freedom of conversation. So, he is informal and often chatty. Hazlitt, De Quincey and Charles Lamb brought the personal essay a level that has remained unsurpassed. George Orwell, E.M. Forster, James Thruber and E.B. White are excellent model practiceners of the personal essay.

[2] The Impersonal Essay: In an impersonal essay the author is impersonal. He writes as an authority on the subject and expounds it in an ordered and thorough fashion. Bacon is called the best writer of impersonal essay. Unlike a personal essayist, Bacon is always stately and magnificent. He is never like an informal and chatty friend. The dry light of reason always envelopes his essays. In his essays, there is no tenderness, no pathos, and no confidence of an intimate and chatty friend. There we find cold reason, searching analysis and weighty thoughts.

[3] The Aphoristic Essay: The aphoristic essay is also an important type of essay. Bacon is the chief exponent of this kind of essay. His style is called aphoristic. His essays seem like a collection of short and pithy maxims with tremendous compression. Each sentence can convey a deep and concentrated meaning. Bacon considered this style suitable for the spirit of enquiry.

[4] The Critical Essay: This is also an important type of essay. This type of essay is an attempt at literary criticism. It developed in the Restoration period. The best-known names of this period are those of Locke, Temple, Halifax and Dryden. Of these only Dryden is worth considering. He is the forerunner of the critical essay. It came in full bloom with him. His innumerable Prefaces, Dedications etc. are in the nature of critical essays.

[5] The Character Essay: This type of essay was popular during the first half of the seventeenth century. The essayists sketched some particular human type in each of the essay. The best-known essayists of this type of essay are Joseph Hall, John Earle, and Thomas Overbury. Overbury is more concrete and vivid than other essayists. His characters are short and pithy. They reveal considerable knowledge and insight into human nature. These character writers exercised a profound influence on the essays of Addison and Steele.

[6] The Periodical and Social Essay: This kind of essay aimed at social reform. The early part of eighteenth century was the heady of this type of essay. Addison and Steele were pioneers in this field. The Tatler, The Spectator, The Examiner, The Guardian are very important periodicals. They contributed much to the field of essay.


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