Royal Society of Literature  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by King George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury. There are 450 Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature (generally 14 new Fellows are named annually), who earn the privilege of using the post-nominal letters FRSL.

Past Fellows include Coleridge, Yeats, Kipling, Thomas Hardy, and George Bernard Shaw; today's include Chinua Achebe, Antonia Fraser, Athol Fugard, Doris Lessing, V.S. Naipaul, Peter Dickinson, and Tom Stoppard. A newly created Fellow inscribes his or her name on the official roll using either Byron's pen or Dickens' quill.

The Society has an annual magazine, RSL, and administers a number of literary prizes and awards, including the Ondaatje Prize, the Jerwood Awards, and the V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize. It can confer the honour of Companion of Literature for writers of particular note. It also awards the Benson Medal for lifetime service in the field of literature.

The Society is based at Somerset House in London.


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