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A short written composition in prose that discusses a subject or proposes an argument without claiming to be a complete or thorough exposition. A minor literary form, the essay is more relaxed than the formal academic dissertation. The term (‘trying out’) was coined by the French writer Michel de Montaigne in the title of his Essais (1580), the first modern example of the form. Francis Bacon's Essays (1597) began the tradition of essays in English, of which important examples are those of Addison, Steele, Hazlitt, Emerson, D. H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf. The verse essays of Pope and of Robert Pinsky are rare exceptions to the prose norm.

Subjects: Literature.

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