The Penguin English Library is an imprint of Penguin Books. The series was first created in 1963[1] as a 'sister series'[2] to the Penguin Classics series, providing critical editions of English classics; at that point in time, the Classics label was reserved for works translated into English (for example, Juvenal's Sixteen Satires). The English Library was merged into the Classics stable in the mid 1980s,[1] and all titles hitherto published in the Library were reissued as Classics.

The imprint was resurrected in 2012 for a new series of titles.[2][3] The present English Library no longer seeks to provide critical editions; the focus is now 'on the beauty and elegance of the book'.[3]


1963 to 1986Edit

The Penguin English Library aimed to publish 'a comprehensive range of the literary masterpieces which have appeared in the English language since the 15th century'.[1] All texts in the Library were published with an introduction and explanatory notes written and compiled by an editor; some with a bibliography as well.[2] Editors were also required to provide 'authoritative texts', using their own judgement in printing one, or in some cases creating their own.[2] The series was recognisable chiefly by its distinctive orange spine.[1][3]

Most, if not all, titles were reprinted as Penguin Classics following the merger of the two imprints in the mid 1980s. Some of these editions were superseded in the 1990s or later,[4] while some continue to be reprinted today as Classics. Additionally, the introductions to some titles survive in present-day Penguin Classics as appendices – for example, Tony Tanner's introduction to Mansfield Park.

2012 to presentEdit

The imprint was resurrected in name, though not so much in spirit, in 2012. Texts published in the series no longer include critical apparatus; they instead feature an essay by a notable literary figure, usually excerpted from prior work - for example, the essays of Harold Bloom, V. S. Pritchett and John Sutherland have been featured.[3] A portrait or photograph of the author remains printed on the inside of the front cover.[3] The focus is now on cover art, with each title designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.[3]

List of English Library titlesEdit

This is an incomplete list of the titles in the Penguin English Library:[citation needed]

1963 to 1986Edit

All titles listed below are assumed to have lists of further reading appended and/or are no longer in print having been superseded by new editions, unless stated.

Author Editor Title Series no. Notes
Matthew Arnold P. J. Keating Selected Prose Unknown Still in print as a Penguin Classic titled Culture and Anarchy and Other Selected Prose (2015).[5][6]
Jane Austen Ronald Blythe Emma Unknown
Jane Austen Margaret Drabble Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon Unknown
Jane Austen Tony Tanner Mansfield Park Unknown Tanner's introduction to the novel is reprinted as an appendix in the 2003 Penguin Classics edition.[7]
Jane Austen Anne Henry Ehrenpreis Northanger Abbey Unknown Does not include a bibliography.
Charlotte Brontë Q. D. Leavis Jane Eyre Unknown
Charlotte Brontë Andrew and Judith Hook Jane Eyre Unknown
Emily Brontë David Daiches Wuthering Heights 1
Edmund Burke Conor Cruise O'Brien Reflections on the Revolution in France Unknown Still in print as a Penguin Classic.
John Bunyan Roger Sharrock The Pilgrim's Progress 4 Reprinted with revisions as a Penguin Classic in 1987.
Wilkie Collins J. I. M. Stewart The Moonstone Unknown
Wilkie Collins Julian Symons The Woman in White Unknown
Daniel Defoe Angus Ross Robinson Crusoe Unknown
Daniel Defoe Pat Rogers A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain Unknown
Charles Dickens Gordon Spence Barnaby Rudge Unknown
Charles Dickens Angus Calder (introduction) Great Expectations 3
Charles Dickens Angus Wilson (introduction)
Peter Fairclough
Oliver Twist 17
Charles Dickens Angus Wilson (introduction)
Arthur J. Cox
The Mystery of Edwin Drood Unknown
Benjamin Disraeli Thom Braun Coningsby Unknown
Benjamin Disraeli Thom Braun (text and notes)
Rab Butler (introduction)
Sybil; or, The Two Nations Unknown
George Eliot Unknown Adam Bede 121
George Eliot Unknown Daniel Deronda 20
George Eliot Unknown Felix Holt 84
George Eliot W. J. Harvey Middlemarch 2
George Eliot Andrew Sanders Romola Unknown
George Eliot David Lodge Scenes of Clerical Life 87
George Eliot Q. D. Leavis Silas Marner 30
Henry Fielding R. F. Brissenden Joseph Andrews Unknown
Henry Fielding R. P. C. Mutter Tom Jones Unknown
Elizabeth Gaskell Alan Shelston Life of Charlotte Brontë Unknown
Elizabeth Gaskell Frank Glover Smith Wives and Daughters Unknown
Thomas Hardy C. H. Sisson Jude the Obscure Unknown
Thomas Hardy Martin Seymour-Smith The Mayor of Casterbridge Unknown
Thomas Hardy George Woodcock The Return of the Native Unknown
Thomas Hardy A. Alvarez (introduction)
David Skilton (editor)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles Unknown
Nathaniel Hawthorne Thomas E. Connolly (introduction and notes) The Scarlet Letter and Selected Tales Unknown The text of The Scarlet Letter is that of the authoritative Centenary Works edition, published by Ohio State University Press. Connolly's notes and the text are still included in the updated Penguin Classics edition, which has excised the tales and replaced his introduction with one by Nina Baym.
Henry James Anthony Curtis The Aspern Papers and The Turn of the Screw Unknown Still in print as a Penguin Classic.
Christopher Marlowe J. B. Steane The Complete Plays Unknown
Herman Melville Harold Beaver Moby-Dick Unknown
John Milton C. A. Patrides Selected Prose Unknown
Thomas Nashe J. B. Steane The Unfortunate Traveller and Other Works Unknown Still in print as a Penguin Classic.
Thomas Love Peacock Raymond Wright Nightmare Abbey and Crotchet Castle 45 Does not include a bibliography per se, but an editorial note is appended to the introduction, giving a brief list of editions and criticism. Still in print as a Penguin Classic.
Tobias Smollett Angus Ross Humphry Clinker 21
Laurence Sterne A. Alvarez (introduction) A Sentimental Journey Unknown
Laurence Sterne Christopher Ricks (introduction)
Graham Petrie
Tristram Shandy Unknown Ricks's introductory essay is reprinted in the current Penguin Classics edition.
Jonathan Swift Michael Foot (introduction)
Peter Dixon and John Chalker (notes)
Gulliver's Travels Unknown
William Makepeace Thackeray J. I. M. Stewart Vanity Fair 35
Edward John Trelawny David Wright Records of Shelley, Byron and The Author Unknown
Oscar Wilde Hesketh Pearson De Profundis and Other Writings Unknown
Richard Steele and Joseph Addison Angus Ross Selections from The Tatler and The Spectator Unknown
Multiple Peter Happé English Mystery Plays Unknown
Cyril Tourneur
John Webster
Thomas Middleton
Gāmini Salgādo Three Jacobean Tragedies (The Revenger's Tragedy/The White Devil/The Changeling) Unknown Authorship of The Revenger's Tragedy (which was published anonymously) was then attributed to Tourneur; today it is generally thought to have been written by Middleton.[8]
Sir George Etherege
William Wycherley
William Congreve
Gāmini Salgādo Three Restoration Comedies (The Man of Mode/The Country Wife/Love for Love) 27 Still in print as a Penguin Classic.
Horace Walpole/William Beckford/Mary Shelley Mario Praz (introduction) Three Gothic Novels (The Castle of Otranto/Vathek/Frankenstein) 36 Still in print as a Penguin Classic. The text of Frankenstein is that of the revised 1832 edition.

The cover art is a detail from J. H. Fuseli's 1781 oil painting The Nightmare, and the detail was retained when the book was first reprinted as a Penguin Classic in 1986. However, reprints from 2003 onwards[9] feature the detail of a photograph by Sir Simon Marsden instead.[10]

2012 to presentEdit

Author Title Essayist Essay Notes
Jane Austen Persuasion Elizabeth Bowen Unknown
Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights Virginia Woolf Wuthering Heights
G. K. Chesterton The Man Who Was Thursday Unknown Unknown
Wilkie Collins The Moonstone T. S. Eliot The Moonstone
Daniel Defoe Robinson Crusoe David Blewett The Island and the World The essay is taken from a chapter in Blewett's Defoe's Art of Fiction: Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders, Colonel Jack, and Roxana (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979).
Henry Fielding Tom Jones R. P. C. Mutter Tom Jones The essay is a reprint of Mutter's introduction to the original Penguin English Library edition (see above).
Elizabeth Gaskell North and South V. S. Pritchett The South Goes North The essay is from Sir Victor's 1942 collection of essays, In My Good Books.
Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter D. H. Lawrence Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter The essay is from Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature.
Mary Shelley Frankenstein Paul Cantor The Nightmare of Romantic Idealism The text is that of the 1985 Penguin Classics edition, edited by Maurice Hindle, i. e. the 1832 text. The essay is taken from a chapter in Cantor's book, Creature and Creator: Myth-Making and English Romanticism (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).
Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy V. S. Pritchett Tristram Shandy
Bram Stoker Dracula John Sutherland Why Does the Count Come to England? The essay is taken from Sutherland's Is Heathcliff a Murderer? Great Puzzles in Nineteenth Century Fiction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).
Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Harold Bloom Unknown
Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray Peter Ackroyd - The essay is a reprint of Ackroyd's introduction to the first Penguin Classics edition.


  1. ^ a b c d Kelly, Stuart. "The new Penguin English Library is a far cry from its 1963 version". The Guardian.
  2. ^ a b c d "About Penguin Classics". Penguin Classics.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Akbar, Arifa. "A whole new chapter for the Penguin English Library". Independent.
  4. ^ Andrew Sanders. Wooten, William; Donaldson, George (eds.). Reading Penguin: A Critical Anthology. p. 112. ISBN 1443850829.
  5. ^ Keating, Peter. "What's new". Peter Keating: Author and vegetarian cook. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Culture and Anarchy and Other Selected Prose". Penguin UK. Penguin. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  7. ^ Austen, Jane (2003). Mansfield Park. Penguin Classics. pp. 440–465. ISBN 9780141439808.
  8. ^ Maus, Katharine (1998). Four Revenge Tragedies. Oxford: Oxford World's Classics. p. i. ISBN 0192838784.
  9. ^ Patton, Phil. "Reflections on a Penguin-iversary". AIGA. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Back cover of Three Gothic Novels (Classics, 2003)".