The Essay is the essence of English Literature
Essay and its role in Language
Essay is generally considered the backbone of a language and the same is with English. It has been defined by many scholars which can gleaned from various text books on literature.
Whatever the definition, the fact is that an essay is a personal statement on a subject. It is prose that represents the thoughts of the individual in a composite and logical manner. The Oxford English Dictionary has given an excellent definayion and brings out two things. Firstly it must be of moderate length; otherwise it would become a book. Secondly it can be on any subject and is a composite statement on it, presenting viewpoints from all angles.
Generally Montaigne is recognized as the father of the modern essay. He was a philosopher who wrote many essays with the sole aim of entertaining a reader and informing on a subject. In this way he entertained and created interest in the mind of a reader. For what use is an essay that does not entertain and hold the attention of the reader. It is a way to exercise the brain cells of a reader and make him think. A good essay will entrain and ignite the ideas in the brain of a reader
The essay has not changed much with time and age. Essayists like E.V.Lucas, Robert Lynde, G.K.Chesterton, and A.G.Gardiner immediately come to mind as men of letters who wrote excellent essays
The essay is a tool of expression and some of the greatest writers of the English language have used the essay as a tool for bringing out their views and thoughts. They were good observers as well and represented life as seen by them through their eyes. Thus Scott, Lamb, Maugham observed f life around them and wrote in a way to engross the reader's attention.
A modern essay is denoted by freshness and unsophisticated beauty. It is almost lyrical and has an inherent grace. It is a form of expression that has no bounds or limits and a writer is free to express whatsoever he feels.
Next we come to the style of an essay. Yes, style has changed over the decades. Modern essays are in simple English with short sentences. The idea is to reach out to the maximum number of people.
Modern essayists like W.P.Ker, Andrew Lang, and Virginia Woolf among others have stamped the essay with their personality. Lastly we can conclude that an essay is part of prose and is the stepping stone to great literature.