No. 10: Thomas Middleton at 40


Thomas Middleton was a Renaissance playwright successful enough in his own lifetime, then cast like so many of his contemporaries under the critical shadow of Shakespeare, but now enjoying increasingly greater prominence in academic discussion; admittedly this is in part thanks to what we now recognise as his revision of a number of Shakespeare plays, but moreover due to recent work by OUP in collecting his complete works for the first time that has allowed us to truly grasp the full range of his dramatic power. Thanks to this, we can now get a better sense of his professional progress, and assess his position at the age of 40. Continue reading “No. 10: Thomas Middleton at 40”


No. 9: John Milton at 40

John Milton

John Milton (1608-1674) will forever be remembered first and foremost for Paradise Lost, and as such is frequently packaged as the romantic, blind poet bequeathing us with his epic poetry. Step back to his 40s though and we are faced with a far more troubling Milton – posterboy for the Roundheads and lapdog to Oliver Cromwell. In the words of 1066 and all that, he was less ‘wrong but wromantic’ at this age, and more ‘right but repulsive’. Continue reading “No. 9: John Milton at 40”

No. 8: Mary Elizabeth Braddon at 40

Mary-Elizabeth-BraddonMary Elizabeth Braddon, born 4 October 1835, would lie to many of her peers in later years about her age (telling some she had been born later, in 1837), but the unavoidable truth is that the Queen of Sensation Fiction turned 40 in 1875, a time in which she was both subjected to and released from scandal, where she waved goodbye to editorial pressures, and continued a prolific production of novels, though not to everyone’s taste. Continue reading “No. 8: Mary Elizabeth Braddon at 40”

No. 7: Daphne du Maurier at 40

The novelist, playwright, biographer and short story writer Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) turned 40 years of age in 1947. By that time she was married to Lt-Gen Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning (1896-1965), the mother of three children, and a well-known novelist following the immense popularity of her fifth book, Rebecca (1938). None of her work was published in 1947 but The King’s General (1946), and The Parasites (1949), are novels composed around that time, as were the stories in The Apple Tree (1952). Continue reading “No. 7: Daphne du Maurier at 40”

No. 6: Oliver Goldsmith at 40


Oliver Goldsmith, he of the large-domed forehead, was born in 1730…or 1728 – what difference does a couple of years make? Well for a man like Goldsmith who produced only a few great works for which he is remembered, 1768 and 1748 both mark the production of one of these works, so that 40 either heralded his spoof of the sentimental genre, A Good-Natured Man, or his politically charged poem The Deserted Village. So, do we place the 40-year old Goldsmith in a satirical or political humour? Continue reading “No. 6: Oliver Goldsmith at 40”

No. 5: Terry Pratchett at 40


Born on the 24th April 1948, Terry Pratchett turned 40 in 1988. At this time he was on the ascendant with a great deal of his success still to come; though he was not yet made a knight (that would be 2009), nor even received an OBE (that would be aged 50 in 1998), at 40 years old his reputation was forming and fanbase growing as his now-celebrated Discworld series left its infancy and Pratchett consolidated the direction of these novels. Continue reading “No. 5: Terry Pratchett at 40”

No. 4: Charlotte Brontë (not) at 40

Charlotte Bronte

The Brontë siblings were arguably some of the most influential writers of the Victorian era, but any discussion of the Brontës at 40 is somewhat hindered by the fact that not one of the Brontë children survived to the age of 40. But a writer’s legacy does not end with their life, and in Charlotte’s case, the 40th year after her birth heralded a dramatic boost to her reputation. Continue reading “No. 4: Charlotte Brontë (not) at 40”

No. 3: William Shakespeare at 40



Chandos Shakespeare

In 1604, at the age of forty, William Shakespeare was a well-known and wealthy man, owning property in Stratford and London, and performing before the Royal Court. By this age he had already written some of his most famous works including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice. This rise to success had irked others along the way, including the playwright Robert Greene, who had named him an ‘upstart crow’. Greene appears bitter when he stated that: Continue reading “No. 3: William Shakespeare at 40”

No. 2: Aphra Behn at 40

Aphra Behn

A discussion of Aphra Behn at 40 immediately hits into trouble given that we have yet to agree exactly when she was born. Aphra Behn, born Johnson (we think), may have been the daughter of a Leuitenant General, or instead the daughter of a barber in Kent. While the debate continues to rage over that, we think – think – that whoever her father was, she was born around 1640. This would put her 40th birthday in 1680, and a good year for her at that. Continue reading “No. 2: Aphra Behn at 40”

No. 1: Charles Dickens at 40

Dickens 1852 cleanshavenIt was in February 1852 that Charles Dickens turned 40; this would be the year he would commence writing what many consider to be his most accomplished novel (and the only one to mention dinosaurs), Bleak House. Continue reading “No. 1: Charles Dickens at 40”