During the Age of Enlightenment, essays were a favored tool of polemicists who aimed at convincing readers of their position; they also featured heavily in the rise of periodical literature, as seen in the works of Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and Samuel Johnson.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Edmund Burke and Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote essays for the general public.
Inspired in particular by the works of Plutarch, a translation of whose Œuvres Morales (Moral works) into French had just been published by Jacques Amyot, Montaigne began to compose his essays in 1572; the first edition, entitled Essais, was published in two volumes in 1580.
For the rest of his life, he continued revising previously published essays and composing new ones.
Formal essays are characterized by "serious purpose, dignity, logical organization, length," whereas the informal essay is characterized by "the personal element (self-revelation, individual tastes and experiences, confidential manner), humor, graceful style, rambling structure, unconventionality or novelty of theme," etc.
Essays are commonly used as literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author.The concept of an "essay" has been extended to other media beyond writing.A film essay is a movie that often incorporates documentary filmmaking styles and focuses more on the evolution of a theme or idea.Kenkō described his short writings similarly to Montaigne, referring to them as "nonsensical thoughts" written in "idle hours".Another noteworthy difference from Europe is that women have traditionally written in Japan, though the more formal, Chinese-influenced writings of male writers were more prized at the time.A photographic essay covers a topic with a linked series of photographs that may have accompanying text or captions.He notes that "the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything", and adds that "by tradition, almost by definition, the essay is a short piece".The comparison highlights the similarities between two or more similar objects while contrasting highlights the differences between two or more objects.When writing a compare/contrast essay, writers need to determine their purpose, consider their audience, consider the basis and points of comparison, consider their thesis statement, arrange and develop the comparison, and reach a conclusion. Expository essay is used to inform, describe or explain a topic, using important facts and teaching reader about the topic.Francis Bacon's essays, published in book form in 1597, 1612, and 1625, were the first works in English that described themselves as essays.Ben Jonson first used the word essayist in English in 1609, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.