No matter how tempting it is to add several paragraphs of information about your author's life and background at the opening of your essay...beware! This achieves no marks as it is simply information you have obtained from another source.

What is useful is information about your author and his or her context (the time and situation in which the author lived) that is relevant to the essay question or title. Always avoid waffle and generalisation - stick to what is relevant and useful to the essay and keep it short.

Far better, in fact, to derive contextual information about an author from the text itself. If, for example, you think an author was affected by the way the poor were treated, find a quotation from the text itself and show this fact. This means you are interpreting the author's text... and this is what gains marks!