Literature of the United Kingdom At its formation, the United Kingdom inherited the literary traditions of England, Scotland and Wales, including the earliest existing native literature written in the Celtic languages , Old English literature and more recent English literature including the works of Geoffrey Chaucer , William Shakespeare and John Milton.
The early 18th century is known as the Augustan Age of English literature. Completed after nine years work, Samuel Johnson 's A Dictionary of the English Language was published in , and was viewed as the pre-eminent British dictionary until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary years later. In Scotland the poetry of Robert Burns revived interest in Scots literature, and the Weaver Poets of Ulster were influenced by literature from Scotland.
In Wales the late 18th century saw the revival of the eisteddfod tradition, inspired by Iolo Morganwg. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman , by Mary Wollstonecraft , is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. Virginia Woolf was a leading modernist writer of the 20th century. Welsh native Roald Dahl is frequently ranked the best children's author in UK polls.
His poem If— is a national favourite. Like William Ernest Henley 's poem Invictus , it is a memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism and a " stiff upper lip ". The Celtic Revival stimulated a new appreciation of traditional Irish literature.
The Scottish Renaissance of the early 20th century brought modernism to Scottish literature as well as an interest in new forms in the literatures of Scottish Gaelic and Scots. The English novel developed in the 20th century into much greater variety and it remains today the dominant English literary form. Wodehouse , Martin Amis , J. Ballard , Beatrix Potter , A. Important British poets of the 20th century include Rudyard Kipling , W.
Eliot , John Betjeman and Dylan Thomas. It is awarded each year in early October for the best original novel, written in English and published in the UK. Rowling making up the top five on the list. British children's literature was celebrated in the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games during the sequence called " Second to the right and straight on till morning " which saw thirty Mary Poppins descend on flying umbrellas to fight and defeat the villains Queen of Hearts , Captain Hook , Cruella de Vil and Lord Voldemort who were haunting children's dreams.
The UK has remained among the largest publishers of books. As of , six firms in the United Kingdom rank among the world's biggest publishers of books in terms of revenue: Theatre of the United Kingdom From its formation in , the United Kingdom has had a vibrant tradition of theatre, much of it inherited from England and Scotland. The West End is the main theatre district in the UK.
Opened in , the Theatre Royal at the Bristol Old Vic is the oldest continually-operating theatre in the English speaking world. Popular entertainment became more important in this period than ever before, with fair-booth burlesque and mixed forms that are the ancestors of the English music hall. These forms flourished at the expense of other forms of English drama, which went into a long period of decline.
By the early 19th century it was no longer represented by stage plays at all, but by the closet drama , plays written to be privately read in a "closet" a small domestic room.
Their Victorian era comic operas introduced innovations in content and form that directly influenced the development of musical theatre through the 20th century. Production of serious plays was restricted to the patent theatres , and new plays were subject to censorship by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. At the same time, there was a burgeoning theatre sector featuring a diet of low melodrama and musical burlesque ; but critics described British theatre as driven by commercialism and a "star" system.
A change came in the late 19th century with the plays on the London stage by the Irishmen George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde , who influenced domestic English drama and revitalised it. The highest accolade in British theatre, the Olivier Awards , are named after him.
Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan , nurtured their collaboration, and had their first success with Trial by Jury. Among Gilbert and Sullivan 's best known comic operas are H. Carte built the West End's Savoy Theatre in to present their joint works, and through the inventor of electric light Sir Joseph Swan , the Savoy was the first theatre, and the first public building in the world, to be lit entirely by electricity.
The performing arts theatre Sadler's Wells , under Lilian Baylis , nurtured talent that led to the development of an opera company, which became the English National Opera ENO ; a theatre company, which evolved into the National Theatre; and a ballet company, which eventually became the English Royal Ballet.
The National Theatre's largest auditorium is named after Olivier, and he is commemorated in the Laurence Olivier Awards , given annually by the Society of London Theatre. Lionel Bart 's musical Oliver! In July , a board was set up to supervise construction of a National Theatre in London, and a separate board was constituted to run a National Theatre Company and lease the Old Vic theatre.
A National Theatre of Scotland was set up in Freddie Mercury statue at the West End's Dominion Theatre where Queen and Ben Elton 's musical We Will Rock You was performed from to A prolific composer of musical theatre in the 20th century, Andrew Lloyd Webber has been referred to as "the most commercially successful composer in history".
Lloyd Webber has worked with producer Cameron Mackintosh , lyricist Tim Rice , actor Michael Crawford originated the title role in The Phantom of the Opera , actress and singer Sarah Brightman , while his musicals originally starred Elaine Paige originated the role of Grizabella in Cats and had a chart hit with " Memory " , who with continued success has become known as the First Lady of British Musical Theatre.