Salient Features of Biography


Salient Features of Biography

Salient Features of Biography

Salient Features of Biography

Salient Features of Biography

Introduction to Biography

(Salient Features of Biography): ‘Biography’ is a genre of literature dealing with the life account of a person written by another person. The term ‘biography’ was first used in a literary sense by John Dryden and defined it as “the history of particular men’s lives.” In the tradition of world literature, there is no dearth of this genre of literature. In ancient times there were Plutarch’s Lives of Forty-Six Greeks and Romans, Tacitus’ Life of Agricola Ashwa Gosh’s Buddha Sharit, and even in the Bible, there are fragmental biographies such as the Chronicles, the Kings. In the middle ages, there were such biographies as Einhard’s Charlemagne, Asser’s Alfred, Gulbadan Begum’s Humayunnama, Ramcharan Thakur’s Shankar Charit, Ramananda Dhij’s Guru Charit, etc. In the modern age, we have plenty of biographies such as Dr. Johnson’s Lives of Poets, Boswell’s Life of Dr. Johnson, Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria, Southey’s Life of Nelson, Louis Fischer’s Life of Mahatma Gandhi Dr. Maheshwar Neog’s Shri Shri Shankardev, S. K. Bhuyan’s Anandaram Baruar Jiban Charit, and so on.

Though there is the existence of biographies in the tradition of literature from the very dawn of history yet the tradition of biography as an independent and conscious genre of literature came into being in the late eighteenth century, and it may rightly be said that this modern tradition of biography began with the publication of Dr. Johnson’s Lives of Poets in 1777. After Johnson, many English writers like Boswell, Lytton Strachey, Southey, Gaskell, Lockhart, and many others have contributed to the storehouse of this branch of literature and established it as a popular and regular practice of literary art. Since then this genre of literature has been being produced enormously in almost all the languages of the world and the twentieth century may be called the hay day of biographies. Salient Features of Biography

Tradition of Biography

The tradition of writing a biography, on the ground of the outlook of treating the subject matter, may well be divided into two traditions as – (1) The Classical Tradition and (2) The Modern Tradition.

The biographies written prior to the late eighteenth century i.e. until the publication of Johnson’s Lives of Poets belongs to the Biography of Classical Tradition. The Biographies of the Classical Tradition were almost panegyric, didactic, and partial in treatment. Kings, prophets, saints, socio-political leaders, and the lives of men of high position were the heroes of those biographies. For Examples – Plutarch’s Lives of Forty-Six Greeks and Romans, Tacitus’ Life of Agricola Ashwa Gosh’s Buddha Sharit Einhard’s Charlemagne, Asser’s Alfred, Gulbadan Begum’s Humayunnama, Mirza Mohammad Kasim’s Alamgirnama, etc. belongs to this tradition.   

On the other hand, the Biography of Modern Tradition, which got initiated with Johnson’s Lives of Poets, is factual, realistic, and analytical that comprises all ranks of people in society as poets, peasants, politicians, writers, artists, businessmen, sportsmen and so on. The biographies of this tradition treat the lives of men with a greater perspective of their age. Dr. Johnson’s Lives of the Poets, Boswell’s Life of Dr. Johnson, Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria, Southey’s Life of Nelson, Louis Fischer’s Life of Mahatma Gandhi Michael Hart’s The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Virginia Wolf’s Life of Roger Fry, etc. are some prominent examples of the Biographies of Modern Tradition. Salient Features of Biography

Types of Biography

On the basis of the scope of the treatment of the subject matter, the biographies may be classified as – (1) Exhaustive Biography, (2) Selective Biography (3) Comparative Biography (4) Partial Biography (5) Brief Biography and (6) Very Brief Biography.

In an Exhaustive Biography, every fact and event known about the hero as everything he did, everything which he would not do, and everything that other people did to him is narrated at full length. In such a biography an evaluation of the activities and achievements of the hero is also brought into account. This class of biography may also be called Critical Biography. In other words, to say, an Exhaustive or Critical Biography contains a complete account of the hero’s effect upon the universe and of the effect of the universe upon him. For Example Lockhart’s Life of Sir Walter Scott, Froude’s Carlyl eand Trevelyan’s Macaulay Herbert Spencer’s The Truth about Muhammad, and Mohammad Ridha’s Muhammad the Messenger of Allah belong to this class of biography.

In Selective Biography the biographer, instead of telling everything, selects only those events, facts, and actions out of the numberless events and actions committed by or happen to the hero, which best exemplify his hero’s true character and makes an account of them. For example, Carlyle’s Life of Sterling, Johnson’s Lives of Poets Goldsmith’s Biographical Sketches Roper’s Moore belong to this class of biography.

The Comparative Biography is a class of biographies in which the biographer brings about an account of the lives of a number of men in his book and compares and contrasts them with a greater perspective of their socio-political milieu. The best example of such a class of biography is Plutarch’s Lives of Forty-six Greeks and Romans.

Another class of biography is Partial Biography in which the biographer deals with only one event or one aspect or a part of his hero’s life and narrates it from his own perspective. Hogg’s Early Life of Shelley, Hardy’s Einstein, etc. are some of the biographies belonging to this class.

The Brief Biography is another class of biographies that are written within a single essay comprising of the major events and incidents along with a brief appraisal or account of the hero’s works and achievements. The best examples of such biographies are Rodha Power’s Socrates, K. J. Ahmad’s Hundred Great Muslims, and Michael Hart’s The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History.

Another class of biographies is Very Short Biography which only gives an introduction to a person that comprises of the person’s dates of birth and death, the field of his work, and little about how he is known to the world. This class of biographies is written within a single paragraph. This class of biographies may also be called Brief Biographical Notes is written for quick reference. This class of biographical notes is most seen in the institutional textbooks prepared for the students. Salient Features of Biography

Features of Biography

A study of world biographies shows that there are some Silent Features of a Good Biography which may be summarized below:

First, good biography is based on reliable facts; there is no place for rumors or fabricated events. It deals with the real man of society and there is no place of fictitious characters in its entire range. The author of the biography should endeavor to portray the spirit and ethos of the age in which his hero lives. Besides this, the author should show the struggle of his person that he strives to achieve what he becomes. The author should have no tendency to cast the biography as the platform for preaching the moral or spiritual ideals of the person with whose life he deals with. Both vices and virtues, good and evil, weak points, and strong points of the man should bring into account in a biography. The biographer should leave the biography to stand or fall on itself. The biographer should not try to defend his hero from any drawbacks or weaknesses that his man happened to commit. The intrusion of the author’s personality, which adds to the beauty of other forms of literature, is disastrous in the case of any biography. The biographer should be wary enough to see that his biography might not turn, in any way, into panegyric writing.

Secondly, good biography is written objectively being detached from any kind of bias and predilection. The author should analyze available data and present them objectively.

Thirdly, the structure of a good biography should be logical and coherent. The biographer should divide the life span of his hero into several distinct periods or parts or chapters which must include – birth, parentage, childhood, education, job, struggles, contribution to his society, and his achievement including his success and failure. The biographer should touch upon the persons with whom or under whom his hero worked and revealed himself. Salient Features of Biography

Biography and History: A Comparision

A biography, in a sense, is a factual history of a person written by another person. But the history of a person is not the history of a nation and there should have no confusion between the two. Besides being different in scope, there is a factual as well as ideological difference between Biography and History as-

History deals with the life of a nation, while biography deals with the life of an individual.

History studies the movements affecting a nation or an age, whereas a biography studies the activities and personalities of a particular man.  Whenever history treats an individual it treats him in the larger perspective of the age to which he belongs.

History seeks to relate an individual with special reference to his age. On the other hand, a biography seeks to isolate the individual from his age and unfold the charm of his distinctive personality.

History deals with particular phases of a people’s life, especially those which are connected with an epoch-making event. It gives only the fragments of a man’s life. But biography deals with the full phases of a particular man.

History brings a vast gallery of characters all of whom call for our attention on their own account. But biography is well defined by two definite events birth and death of an individual. The central hero of the biography is always an individual and all other characters, though great in themselves, are subsidiary to the central hero. Salient Features of Biography

Significance of Studying Biography

There is some Significance in Studying Biography as-

First, all other genres of literature, except biography are much or less fictitious. Sometimes the fictitious writings may bother us, and then to change the taste there are no alternatives except taking to reading biography as it allows no fictitious character in its entire range. Truth, though sometimes seems harsh, is stronger than fiction. Hence to change the taste of our study we should read biographies. 

Secondly, a writer takes to write a biography of the person who by means of his achievement and personality can draw the attention of a larger section of people. But real achievement in life does not come easily. It is the result of perseverance, whole-hearted commitment, hard labor, and struggle. In a good biography, the biographer brings an account of these struggles studying which we can learn the lesson of patience, perseverance, and the value of hard labor.

Thirdly, success and failure are twin brothers, and the man who can face both can march ahead in life. The study of biography can teach us the lesson of how failures lead us to the path of success.

Fourthly, men are curious to know the secrets of an influential person or of a person with a distinctive personality. As the heroes of almost all the biographies are more or less distinctive in personality in some field of human activities hence many people become curious to know about him and the study of the biography of that particular man can curb our curiosity.

Fifthly, besides knowing the man of a biography, the readers can know the age in which the hero of the biography lived and operated himself as a biography is not mere facts of a person but also a truthful picture of an age.

Sixthly, the study of biography acts upon children as a charm and inspires them to determine a higher goal in life. 0 0 0. Salient Features of Biography

Salient Features of Biography 

Reference: Salient Features of Biography

  1. Plutarch: Lives of Forty-Six Greeks and Romans
  2. Tacitus: Life of Agricola
  3. Ashwa Gosh: Buddha Sharit
  4. Einhard: Charlemagne,
  5. Asser: Alfred etc.
  6. Carlyle: Life of Sterling,
  7. Johnson: Lives of Poets
  8. Goldsmith: Biographical Sketches
  9.  Roper: Moore Salient Features of Biography
  10. Lockhart: Life of Sir Walter Scott,
  11.  Froude: Carlyle
  12. Trevelyan: Macaulay
  13. Herbert Spencer: The Truth about Muhammad
  14. Mohammad Ridha: Muhammad the Messenger of Allah
  15. Rodha Power: Socrates,
  16. K. J. Ahmad: Hundred Great Muslims
  17. Ramcharan Thakur: Shankar Charit,
  18. Ramananda Dhij: Guru Charit.   
  19. Dr. Maheshwar Neog: Shri Shankardev
  20. S. K. Bhuyan: Anandaram Baruar Jiban Charit. Salient Features of Biography

Books of Composition by M. Menonimus:

  1. Advertisement Writing
  2. Amplification Writing
  3. Note Making
  4. Paragraph Writing
  5. Notice Writing
  6. Passage Comprehension
  7. The Art of Poster Writing
  8. The Art of Letter Writing
  9. Report Writing
  10. Story Writing
  11. Substance Writing
  12. School Essays Part-I
  13. School Essays Part-II
  14. School English Grammar Part-I
  15. School English Grammar Part-II..

Related Searches:

  1. Biography: Characteristics or Elements
  2. Biography-Wikipedia
  3. Biography and Autobiography
  4. Biography: Definition, Example
  5. How to Write a Biography
Previous articleChief Characteristics of Short Story | Main Features of Short Story
Next articleThe Quran as a Source of Arabic Language and Literature
I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here