SAM SHEPARD

A prolific playwright and author, who is also an Academy Award-nominated actor, Samuel Shepard Rogers was born in Ft, Sheridan, Illinois, but grew up on a Ranch in California. He developed an interest in the lifestyles of cowboys and drifters that he used in many of his plays.

While using the American West as the backdrop for much of his work, he has created an imaginary landscape which is influenced by mysticism and the supernatural.

Having graduated from high school in 1960, he moved to New York City, where the Off-Off-Broadway theater scene was just starting and there was plenty of room for creative young playwrights.

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Scott

All were published anonymously. Scott denied authorship, though the matter was an open secret among his intimates, and was probably known to persons in authority when he was made a baronet in 1820. In 1820, also, he became a member of the Roxburghe Club and founded the Bannatyne Club.

In 1826 Scott went bankrupt when a publishing venture in which he was involved failed. He promised to pay the debt from future book sales and was allowed to keep his home.

Scott composed a Life of Napoleon (1827), and novels and tales such as Chronicles of the Canongate: The Two Drovers, The Highland Widow, The Surgeon’s Daughter (all, 1827), three series of Tales of a Grandfather (1828, 1829, 1830), The Fair Maid of Perth (1828), Anne of Ceierstein (1829), and Count Robert of Paris (1832). Scott’s health broke under the strain. He suffered a paralytic stroke in 1830, and a died two years later.

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SIR WALTER SCOTT

Considered to be one of the greatest of the British Romantic era novelists, Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, the son of Walter Scott the lawyer, and Anne Rutherford. Scott’s literary interests began at an early age and ranged from Scottish history and folk ballads to the fashionable romanticism of Germany.

In 1805, Scott produced the immensely popular Lay of the Last Minstrel. It was, said critic George Saintsbury, with the exception of the Wordsworth and Coleridge lyrical ballads, “the first book published which was distinctly and originally characteristic of the new poetry of the nineteenth century.” He followed the Minstrel with Marmion (1808), The Lady of the Lake (1810), Rokeby (1813), and The Bridal of Triermain (1813).

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ROBERT BURNS


Burns’ later poetry was produced in the intervals of farm and tax work. He wrote few additional satires, epistles, and dramatic monologues, as the famed Kilmarnock volume. His one important long poem after the Edinburgh period was Tam O’Shanter, but it was his greatest. It was written at the urging of captain Francis Grose (1731-1791), who wanted a witch story to accompany his engraving of Alloway Kirk in his Antiquities of Scotland (1791)

To such collections as James Johnson’s Museum, George Thonsson’s Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs (1793), and Peter Urbani’s Selection of Scots Songs Burns contributed more than 300 songs, including some of the finest lyrics in the language. In these lyrics, W.E. Henley writers, Burns “passed the folk-song of his nation through the mint of his mind, and he reproduced it stamped with his image and lettered with his superscription; so that for the world at large it exists, and will go on existing, not as he found it but as he left it.”

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ROBERT BURNS

Burns had hoped for an appointment in the tax service and returned to farming almost in desperation after his patrons had failed to help him. At the last moment, though, he obtained authorization to receive Excise Instructions. With his commission in his pocket, he began work at Ellisland and acknowledged Jean Armour as his wife, after she had already borne him two sets of twins.

The farm went badly. Burns soon turned to the Excise to supplement his lease and moved into Dumfries. For the remaining five years of his life he was wholly dependent on his salary. The third edition of his Poems (1793), brought him no profits, since he had been so ill-advised as to sell his copyright in 1787.

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ROBERT BURNS

Scotland’s most popular poet, Robert “Robbie” Burns, grew up near Mauchline, where he encountered the Poems of Robert Fergusson. Through Fergusson’s work, Burns first realized the literary possibilities of the Scots Vernacular. His first such essay was “The Two Herds,” a satire on a dispute then raging between two “Auld Licht” (conservative) ministers.

In 1786, Burns published his Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, which had immediate success. When copies reached Dugald Stewart, James, Earl of Glencairn, and other men of influence, they arranged for a second printing in Edinburgh.

Burns was patronized by the gentry, who, unaware of the real extent of his reading and study, hailed him as a “Bard of Nature.” Some of these people, however, were offended by the poet’s occasionally blunt speech and by his ignorance of the finer points of etiquette.

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WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

By 1798, Wordsworth’s enthusiasm for the revolutionary cause had waned. There were many reasons for his shift, but the decisive factor appeared to have been the aggressive foreign policy of France in the invasion of Switzerland. Wordsworth has surveyed the development of his character and opinions in The Prelude, a very long, autobiographical poem in blank verse, extending through 14 books. This poem contains many of the finest passages of his works. It was begun before 1800, The rest of his life he often took it up, rewrote it at least four times, and was constantly revising the successive drafts. The final draft, set down in 1839, was published in 1850, immediately after his death.

As a poetic work the final draft is perhaps superior to the draft of 1805, but the earliest draft is more precious as a revelation of the poet’s mind and inner being; more dependable, and above all more forthright and candid.

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