The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Irish Writers of all time. This list of famous Irish Writers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Irish Writers.
With an HPI of 85.81, Oscar Wilde is the most famous Irish Writer. His biography has been translated into 119 different languages on wikipedia.
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of the most popular playwrights in London in the early 1890s. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his criminal conviction for gross indecency for consensual homosexual acts in "one of the first celebrity trials", imprisonment, and early death from meningitis at age 46. Wilde's parents were Anglo-Irish intellectuals in Dublin. A young Wilde learned to speak fluent French and German. At university, Wilde read Greats; he demonstrated himself to be an exceptional classicist, first at Trinity College Dublin, then at Oxford. He became associated with the emerging philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new "English Renaissance in Art" and interior decoration, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress and glittering conversational skill, Wilde became one of the best-known personalities of his day. At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into what would be his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French while in Paris, but it was refused a licence for England due to an absolute prohibition on the portrayal of Biblical subjects on the English stage. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late-Victorian London. At the height of his fame and success, while The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) was still being performed in London, Wilde prosecuted the Marquess of Queensberry for criminal libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. The libel trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with men. After two more trials he was convicted and sentenced to two years' hard labour, the maximum penalty, and was jailed from 1895 to 1897. During his last year in prison, he wrote De Profundis (published posthumously in 1905), a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. On his release, he left immediately for France, and never returned to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.
With an HPI of 83.64, Jonathan Swift is the 2nd most famous Irish Writer. His biography has been translated into 93 different languages.
Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, author, essayist, political pamphleteer (first for the Whigs, then for the Tories), poet, and Anglican cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, hence his common sobriquet, "Dean Swift". Swift is remembered for works such as A Tale of a Tub (1704), An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity (1712), Gulliver's Travels (1726), and A Modest Proposal (1729). He is regarded by the Encyclopædia Britannica as the foremost prose satirist in the English language, and is less well known for his poetry. He originally published all of his works under pseudonyms—such as Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, M. B. Drapier—or anonymously. He was a master of two styles of satire, the Horatian and Juvenalian styles. His deadpan, ironic writing style, particularly in A Modest Proposal, has led to such satire being subsequently termed "Swiftian".
With an HPI of 83.61, James Joyce is the 3rd most famous Irish Writer. His biography has been translated into 144 different languages.
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde movement and is regarded as one of the most influential and important writers of the 20th century. Joyce's novel Ulysses (1922) is a landmark in which the episodes of Homer's Odyssey are paralleled in a variety of literary styles, most famously stream of consciousness. Other well-known works are the short-story collection Dubliners (1914), and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939). His other writings include three books of poetry, a play, letters, and occasional journalism. Joyce was born in Dublin into a middle-class family. A brilliant student, he attended the Jesuit Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare, then, briefly, the Christian Brothers-run O'Connell School. Despite the chaotic family life imposed by his father's unpredictable finances, he excelled at the Jesuit Belvedere College and graduated at University College in Dublin in 1902. In 1904, he met his future wife Nora Barnacle and they moved to mainland Europe. He briefly worked in Pula and then moved to Trieste in Austria-Hungary, working as an English instructor. Except for an eight-month stay in Rome working as a correspondence clerk and three visits to Dublin, Joyce resided there until 1915. In Trieste, he published his book of poems Chamber Music and his short story collection Dubliners, and he began serially publishing The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the English magazine The Egoist. During most of World War I, Joyce lived in Zürich, Switzerland and worked on Ulysses. After the war, he briefly returned to Trieste and then moved to Paris in 1920, which became his primary residence until 1940. Ulysses was first published in Paris in 1922, but its publication in England and the United States was prohibited because of its perceived obscenity. Copies were smuggled into both countries and pirated versions were printed until the mid-1930s, when publication finally became legal. Joyce started his next major work, Finnegans Wake, in 1923, publishing it sixteen years later in 1939. Between these years, Joyce travelled widely. He and Nora were married in a civil ceremony in London in 1930. He made a number of trips to Switzerland, frequently seeking treatment for his increasingly severe eye problems and psychological help for his daughter, Lucia. When France was occupied by Germany during World War II, Joyce moved back to Zürich in 1940. He died there in 1941 after surgery for a perforated ulcer, less than one month before his 59th birthday. Ulysses frequently ranks high in lists of great books of literature, and the academic literature analysing his work is extensive and ongoing. Many writers, film-makers, and other artists have been influenced by his stylistic innovations, such as his meticulous attention to detail, use of interior monologue, wordplay, and the radical transformation of traditional plot and character development. Though most of his adult life was spent abroad, his fictional universe centres on Dublin and is largely populated by characters who closely resemble family members, enemies and friends from his time there. Ulysses in particular is set in the streets and alleyways of the city. Joyce is quoted as saying, "For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal."
With an HPI of 83.25, George Bernard Shaw is the 4th most famous Irish Writer. His biography has been translated into 113 different languages.
George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950), known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1913) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Dublin, Shaw moved to London in 1876, where he struggled to establish himself as a writer and novelist, and embarked on a rigorous process of self-education. By the mid-1880s he had become a respected theatre and music critic. Following a political awakening, he joined the gradualist Fabian Society and became its most prominent pamphleteer. Shaw had been writing plays for years before his first public success, Arms and the Man in 1894. Influenced by Henrik Ibsen, he sought to introduce a new realism into English-language drama, using his plays as vehicles to disseminate his political, social and religious ideas. By the early twentieth century his reputation as a dramatist was secured with a series of critical and popular successes that included Major Barbara, The Doctor's Dilemma, and Caesar and Cleopatra. Shaw's expressed views were often contentious; he promoted eugenics and alphabet reform, and opposed vaccination and organised religion. He courted unpopularity by denouncing both sides in the First World War as equally culpable, and although not a republican, castigated British policy on Ireland in the postwar period. These stances had no lasting effect on his standing or productivity as a dramatist; the inter-war years saw a series of often ambitious plays, which achieved varying degrees of popular success. In 1938 he provided the screenplay for a filmed version of Pygmalion for which he received an Academy Award. His appetite for politics and controversy remained undiminished; by the late 1920s, he had largely renounced Fabian Society gradualism, and often wrote and spoke favourably of dictatorships of the right and left—he expressed admiration for both Mussolini and Stalin. In the final decade of his life, he made fewer public statements but continued to write prolifically until shortly before his death, aged ninety-four, having refused all state honours, including the Order of Merit in 1946. Since Shaw's death scholarly and critical opinion about his works has varied, but he has regularly been rated among British dramatists as second only to Shakespeare; analysts recognise his extensive influence on generations of English-language playwrights. The word Shavian has entered the language as encapsulating Shaw's ideas and his means of expressing them.
With an HPI of 81.98, Samuel Beckett is the 5th most famous Irish Writer. His biography has been translated into 102 different languages.
Samuel Barclay Beckett (; 13 April 1906 – 22 December 1989) was an Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator. A resident of Paris for most of his adult life, he wrote in both French and English. Beckett's literary and theatrical work features bleak, impersonal and tragicomic experiences of life, often coupled with black comedy and nonsense. It became increasingly minimalist as his career progressed, involving more aesthetic and linguistic experimentation. He is considered one of the last modernist writers, and one of the key figures in what Martin Esslin called the Theatre of the Absurd.Beckett was awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his writing, which—in new forms for the novel and drama—in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation". He was the first person to be elected Saoi of Aosdána in 1984.
With an HPI of 78.68, Bram Stoker is the 6th most famous Irish Writer. His biography has been translated into 77 different languages.
Abraham Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912) was an Irish author who is celebrated for his 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Sir Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, which Irving owned. In his early years, Stoker worked as a theatre critic for an Irish newspaper and wrote stories as well as commentaries. He also enjoyed travelling, particularly to Cruden Bay where he set two of his novels. During another visit to the English coastal town of Whitby, Stoker drew inspiration for writing Dracula. He died on April 20, 1912 due to Locomotor ataxia and was cremated in north London. Since his death, his magnum opus Dracula has become one of the most well known works in English literature, and the novel has been adapted for numerous films, short stories and plays.
With an HPI of 76.22, W. B. Yeats is the 7th most famous Irish Writer. His biography has been translated into 95 different languages.
William Butler Yeats (13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939) was an Irish poet, dramatist, writer and one of the foremost figures of 20th-century literature. He was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and became a pillar of the Irish literary establishment who helped to found the Abbey Theatre, and in his later years served two terms as a Senator of the Irish Free State. A Protestant of Anglo-Irish descent, Yeats was born in Sandymount and was educated in Dublin and London and spent childhood holidays in County Sligo. He studied poetry from an early age, when he became fascinated by Irish legends and the occult. These topics feature in the first phase of his work, lasting roughly from his student days at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin until the turn of the 20th century. His earliest volume of verse was published in 1889, and its slow-paced and lyrical poems display debts to Edmund Spenser, Percy Bysshe Shelley and the poets of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. From 1900 his poetry grew more physical, realistic and politicised. He moved away from the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with some elements including cyclical theories of life. He had become the chief playwright for the Irish Literary Theatre in 1894, and early on promoted younger poets such as Ezra Pound. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923. His major later works include 1928's The Tower and Words for Music Perhaps and Other Poems, published in 1932.
With an HPI of 74.55, Laurence Sterne is the 8th most famous Irish Writer. His biography has been translated into 46 different languages.
Laurence Sterne (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768), was an Anglo-Irish novelist and Anglican cleric who wrote the novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, published sermons and memoirs, and indulged in local politics. He grew up in a military family travelling mainly in Ireland but briefly in England. An uncle paid for Sterne to attend Hipperholme Grammar School in the West Riding of Yorkshire, as Sterne's father was ordered to Jamaica, where he died of malaria some years later. He attended Jesus College, Cambridge on a sizarship, gaining bachelor's and master's degrees. While Vicar of Sutton-on-the-Forest, Yorkshire, he married Elizabeth Lumley in 1741. His ecclesiastical satire A Political Romance infuriated the church and was burnt. With his new talent for writing, he published early volumes of his best-known novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Sterne travelled to France to find relief from persistent tuberculosis, documenting his travels in A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, published weeks before his death. His posthumous Journal to Eliza addresses Eliza Draper, for whom he had romantic feelings. Sterne died in 1768 and was buried in the yard of St George's, Hanover Square. His body was said to have been stolen after burial and sold to anatomists at Cambridge University, but recognised and reinterred. His ostensible skull was found in the churchyard and transferred to Coxwold in 1969 by the Laurence Sterne Trust.
With an HPI of 71.90, Iris Murdoch is the 9th most famous Irish Writer. Her biography has been translated into 50 different languages.
Dame Jean Iris Murdoch ( MUR-dok; 15 July 1919 – 8 February 1999) was an Irish and British novelist and philosopher. Murdoch is best known for her novels about good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious. Her first published novel, Under the Net (1954), was selected in 1998 as one of Modern Library's 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Her 1978 novel The Sea, the Sea won the Booker Prize. In 1987, she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II for services to literature. In 2008, The Times ranked Murdoch twelfth on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".Her other books include The Bell (1958), A Severed Head (1961), The Red and the Green (1965), The Nice and the Good (1968), The Black Prince (1973), Henry and Cato (1976), The Philosopher's Pupil (1983), The Good Apprentice (1985), The Book and the Brotherhood (1987), The Message to the Planet (1989), and The Green Knight (1993).
With an HPI of 71.56, Joseph Murphy is the 10th most famous Irish Writer. His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.
Joseph Denis Murphy (May 20, 1898 – December 16, 1981) was an Irish author and New Thought minister, ordained in Divine Science and Religious Science.
Pantheon has 52 people classified as writers born between 550 and 1991. Of these 52, 17 (32.69%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living writers include John Banville, Edna O'Brien, and John Boyne. The most famous deceased writers include Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and James Joyce. As of October 2020, 5 new writers have been added to Pantheon including Jane Wilde, Terence MacSwiney, and Stefan Molyneux.
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Which Writers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Writers since 1700.