The early 19th century, in particular, saw a proliferation of great essayists in English – William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt and Thomas de Quincey all penned numerous essays on diverse subjects. Virginia Woolf, Edmund Wilson, and Charles du Bos wrote literary criticism essays.
In the 20th century, a number of essayists tried to explain the new movements in art and culture by using essays (e.g., T. As with the novel, essays existed in Japan several centuries before they developed in Europe with a genre of essays known as zuihitsu — loosely connected essays and fragmented ideas.
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.
Furthermore, Huxley argues that "essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference".
These three poles (or worlds in which the essay may exist) are: Huxley adds that the most satisfying essays "..the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist." The word essay derives from the French infinitive essayer, "to try" or "to attempt".
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.
In Italy, Baldassare Castiglione wrote about courtly manners in his essay Il Cortigiano.
In the 17th century, the Jesuit Baltasar Gracián wrote about the theme of wisdom.