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Europe

English essayists included Robert Burton (1577–1641) and Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682). In France, Michel de Montaigne's three volume Essais in the mid 1500s contain over 100 examples widely regarded as the predecessor of the modern essay. In Italy, Baldassare Castiglione wrote about courtly manners in his essay Il libro del cortegiano. In the 17th century, the Jesuit Baltasar Gracián wrote about the theme of wisdom.[4] During the Age of Enlightenment, essays were a favored tool of polemicists who aimed at convincing readers of their position; they also featured heavily in the rise ofperiodical literature, as seen in the works of Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Edmund Burke and Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote essays for the general public. The early 19th century in particular saw a proliferation of great essayists in English – William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey all penned numerous essays on diverse subjects. In the 20th century, a number of essayists tried to explain the new movements in art and culture by using essays (e.g., T.S. Eliot). Whereas some essayists used essays for strident political themes, Robert Louis Stevenson and Willa Cather wrote lighter essays. Virginia Woolf, Edmund Wilson, and Charles du Bos wrote literary criticism essays.[4]

Japan

Main article: Zuihitsu

As with the novel, essays existed in Japan several centuries before they developed in Europe, with a genre of essays known as zuihitsu – loosely connected essays and fragmented ideas – having existed since almost the beginnings of Japanese literature. Many of the most noted early works of Japanese literature are in this genre....
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