Today in Literary History – August 18, 1958 – Nabokov’s Lolita is first published in the US 60 years ago today

Vladimir Nabokov's controversial masterpiece Lolita was first published in the United States sixty years ago today, on August 18, 1958. It had originally been published in Paris in 1955 by Olympia Press (which specialized in "erotica") in two error-ridden volumes. It would not be be published in the UK until 1959. The novel's plot, the …

Today in Literary History – August 17, 1945 – George Orwell’s Animal Farm is published

Animal Farm, George Orwell's satirical dystopian fable, was first published on August 17, 1945. He had begun the novel in 1943 after resigning from his position at the BBC to concentrate on writing. The story of Animal Farm is one of a revolution by the barnyard animals against Farmer Jones, his wife and his hired …

Today in Literary History – August 16, 1920 – Charles Bukowski is born

The American poet and novelist Charles Bukowski was born in Germany on August 16, 1920 as Heinrich Karl Bukowski. His father was a German-American who served as a sergeant in the American army during World War I and with the army of occupation in Germany after the war. After leaving the services he stayed on in …

Today in Literary History – August 14, 1969 – Leonard Woolf dies

Leonard Woolf, the editor, publisher, novelist and memoirist and husband of Virginia Woolf, died from a stroke on August 14, 1969 at the age of eighty-eight. Woolf was born into a Jewish family in London. His father had been a lawyer but after he died when Woolf was eleven years old the family fell on …

Today in Literary History – August 12, 1867 – Classicist Edith Hamilton is born

Edith Hamilton, whose books popularizing Greek and Roman culture and mythology, was born on August 12, 1867. She died in 1963 at the age of ninety-five. Her books, such as The Greek Way, The Roman Way and, most especially, Mythology, introduced many readers to the ancient myths and their meanings and to the worldviews of …

Today in Literary History -August 11, 1984 -Publisher Alfred A. Knopf dies

The influential American publisher Alfred A. Knopf died on August 11, 1984 at age of ninety-one. Knopf was 22 in 1915 when he founded his own publishing house with a $5,000 loan from his father, a Jewish immigrant from Poland who had become a successful advertising executive in New York. Knopf was joined in the …

Today in Literary History – July 11, 1960 – Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is published

Harper Lee's beloved novel To Kill a Mockingbird was published on July 11, 1960. The novel is the coming of age story of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch and her brother "Jem," whose principled lawyer father, Atticus, chooses to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a white woman in Depression Era …

Today In Literary History – July 8, 1822 – poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowns in Italy

The Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in the Gulf of Spezia in Italy on July 8, 1822, just weeks short of his 30th birthday, after his boat sank during a sudden storm. There have been theories that his death was a suicide or a botched robbery but it seems more likely to have been …

Today in Literary History – July 7, 1907 – science fiction author Robert Heinlein is born

The eminent science fiction writer Robert Heinlein was born on July 7, 1907, in Butler, Missouri. He is the author of dozens of science fiction novels and short stories --such as Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, Time Enough for Love and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress-- many of which have crossed over …

Today in Literary History – July 6, 1932 – Kenneth Graham, author of The Wind in the Willows, dies

Kenneth Grahame, the author of the classic children’s book The Wind in the Willows, died on July 6, 1932, at the age of seventy-three. His epitaph reads "To the beautiful memory of Kenneth Grahame, husband of Elspeth and father of Alastair, who passed the river on the 6th of July, 1932, leaving childhood and literature through him …

Today in Literary History – July 4, 1855 – the first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is published

The first edition of Walt Whitman’s book of poems, Leaves of Grass, was published in New York on July 4, 1855, when Whitman was thirty-six. It was a slim volume of only 12 (untitled) poems in 95 pages. Whitman said that he wanted the book to be small enough for anyone to carry it in …

Today in Literary History – June 21, 1948 – Ian McEwan is born

Ian McEwan, the great British short story writer and novelist, was born on June 21, 1948. He has had one of the longest and most varied careers of his generation of British writers which includes Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and Julian Barnes. McEwan's father was an Army major and McEwan grew up on various military …

Today in Literary History – June 20, 1995 – Essayist Emil Cioran dies

Emil Cioran, the Romanian philosopher and author who lived most of his life in France died on June 20, 1995, at the age of eighty-four, from Alzheimer Disease. Cioran had been obsessed by the idea of suicide his whole life. Many of his brief aphoristic essays wove themselves around what Cioran considered a paradox, at …

Today in Literary History – June 10, 1915 – Novelist Saul Bellow is born

The Nobel Prize-winning American novelist Saul Bellow was born on June 10, 1915. In addition to the Nobel he won a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award three times. Bellow, whose parents were Jewish refugees from St. Petersburg, Russia, was born in Lachine, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal. When he was nine years old …

Today in Literary History – June 8, 1949 – George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is published

George Orwell's explosive dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (sometimes re-released as 1984) was first published on June 8, 1949. Orwell completed the manuscript in 1948 and simply inverted the date to provide a year in the not too distant future. Orwell himself died from tuberculosis eight months after its publication, at the age of forty-six. Orwell …

Today in Literary History – June 5, 1910 – Short Story Writer O. Henry dies

The great short story writer O. Henry (whose real name was William Sydney Porter) died on June 5, 1910 at the age of only forty-seven. O. Henry's short stories are famous for their surprise endings. Sadly, there wasn't much surprise in the ending of William Porter's life. He was an alcoholic who was negligent about …

Today in Literary History – June 3, 1771 – Clergyman and Wit Sydney Smith is born

Sydney Smith, the Anglican cleric, writer and famous wit, was born on July 3, 1771. After a brilliant career at Oxford University Smith took Holy Orders. He served as the priest at several small rural parishes, including Combe Florey, later the home of Evelyn Waugh. Smith was one of the founders of The Edinburgh Review …