English literature is generally seen as beginning with the epic poem Beowulf, that dates from between the 8th to the 11th centuries, the most famous work in Old English, which has achieved national epic status in England, despite being set in Scandinavia. The next important landmark is the works of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400) especially The Canterbury Tales. Then during The Renaissance, especially the late 16th and early 17th centuries, major drama and poetry was written by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Donne and many others. Another great poet, from later in the 17th century, was John Milton (1608-1674) author of the epic poem Paradise Lost (1667). The late 17th and the early 18th century are particularly associated with satire, especially in the poetry of John Dryden and Alexander Pope, and the prose works of Jonathan Swift. The 18th century also saw the first British novels in the works of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, and Henry Fielding, while the late 18th and early 19th century was the period of the Romantic poets Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley and Keats.
It was in the Victorian era (1837–1901) that the novel became the leading literary genre in English, dominated especially by Charles Dickens, but there were many other significant writers, including the Brontë sisters, and then Thomas Hardy, in the final decades of the 19th century.The Americans began to produce major writers in the 19th century, including novelist Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick (1851) and the poets Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Another American, Henry James, was a major