History is in the Making

For our History is in the Making anthology, we asked 20 of our current Fellows to tell us about writers from the last 200 years – from when the RSL was founded in 1820 to now – who they would like to have seen nominated for an RSL Fellowship. They’ve written letters to those writers, thought about why they weren’t celebrated by the RSL when they were alive, and shared with you – their readers – why you should be reading them too. 

Remembering these writers is important – those who are famous, and those who you’ve never heard of before. But it’s only part of the work the RSL and literature in the UK needs to do – we’ve also got to build a society that champions literature for everyone. 

To celebrate the launch of the anthology, we ran a competition for 13 -18-year-olds living in the U.K, asking them to tell us about the writer from the past that most inspires them. You can find the winning entries below or here

We hope that it inspires you to read people you’ve never read before, and to write with confidence, knowing that literature is for everyone. 

Our Fellows' Choices

W.H. Auden

by Will Eaves

A Letter to Parv Bancil

by Nikesh Shukla

Gertrude Bell

by Justin Marozzi

Martin Bell

by Justin Marozzi

Charlotte Brontë

by Tracy Chevalier

J.L. Carr

by Hermione Lee

G.V. Desani

by Daljit Nagra

H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

by Jean Sprackland

George Eliot

by Lisa Appignanesi

Ian Fleming

by Ken Follett

Constance Garnett

by Margaret Jull Costa

Elizabeth Gaskell

by Sarah Moss

Flann O'Brien

by Richard Eyre


by Simon Jenkins

Tayeb Salih

by Hanan al-Shaykh

Mary Shelley

by Vesna Goldsworthy

Ken Smith

by Helen Mort

Elizabeth Taylor

by Sally Bayley

Competition Winners: 13-15-year-olds

Sylvia Plath

by Izzy Goldberg

George Orwell

by Pinar Atamusa

Competition Winners: 16-18-year-olds

Seamus Heaney

by Ruby Campbell

Helen Maria Williams

by Rhea Kaur Pardesi

Oscar Wilde

by Emma Wright

Our foremost thanks go to the RSL Fellows who contributed essays to the anthology, and to the Tara Getty Foundation, the Sutton Place Foundation and the Maria Björnson Memorial Fund for their generous support. Thanks to Splitpixel for designing this publication.