Today in Literary History – June 11, 1936 – Conan the Barbarian creator, Robert E. Howard, dies by suicide at the age of 30

Robert E. Howard, the prolific pulp fiction writer who invented the character Conan the Barbarian and inaugurated the “sword and sorcery” genre, died by suicide on June 11, 1936, at the age of 30. Howard lived his whole life in small Texas oil towns with his father, a country doctor who Howard did not get …

Today in Literary History – June 9, 1936 -British writer Nell Dunn is born

Nell Dunn, the British writer, was born on June 9, 1936. Dunn’s fame comes from three controversial early books, Up the Junction, a book of short stories published in 1963, Talking to Women (1965), a book of conversations with women from “heiresses to factory workers" (both of which Dunn was) which is now a feminist …

Today in Literary History – June 4, 1924 – E.M. Forster’s “A Passage to India” is published

E.M. Forster's fifth novel, A Passage to India, was first published on June 4, 1924. It had been 14 years since his last novel, Howard's End. Forster had struggled with writing A Passage to India for 11 of those years, and it turned out in many ways to be his most personal book. Although Forster …

Today in Literary History – May 31, 1819 – Walt Whitman is born 200 years ago today

Ezra Pound called Walt Whitman, who was born 200 years ago today, "America's poet ... He is America." Whitman wrote about the lives of working people, sexual outsiders, and seekers after answers to life's mysteries that went beyond typical Christian pieties. He was born on Long Island in New York on May 31, 1819, but …

Today in Literary History – May 30, 1593 -playwright Christopher Marlowe is murdered at the age of 29

Christopher “Kit" Marlowe, the most popular Elizabethan dramatist of his day, died on May 30, 1593, after being stabbed in the head during a fight with one of his friends, Ingram Frizer. Marlowe was only 29. Marlowe’s career as a playwright had a mercurial start and a magnificent but brief run. In less than six …

Today in Literary History – May 25, 1953 – “Vagina Monologues” author Eve Ensler is born

Eve Ensler, the playwright, author, performer, and feminist activist, was born in New York City on May, 25, 1953. Ensler is best known for her groundbreaking play The Vagina Monologues. Ensler constructed the play from over 200 interviews that she conducted with women about sexual pleasure, reproductive rights, sex work, sexual violence, body image, and …

Today in Literary History – May 20, 1609 – William Shakespeare’s Sonnets are first published

154 sonnets by William Shakespeare were first published on May 20, 1609 by Thomas Thorpe. Nearly everything about the sonnets - their composition, dedication, and publication – leads to a rabbit's warren of confusion, speculation and disagreement. The controversy starts with Thomas Thorpe himself and the question of how and where he obtained the sonnets …

Today in Literary History – May 19, 1971 – humorous poet Ogden Nash dies

Ogden Nash, famed for his humorous poems featuring unexpected rhymes, idiosyncratic spelling, and wistful sentiments, died on May 19, 1971 at the age of 68. He had suffered from Crone’s Disease and other gastric ailments throughout his life. He fell ill after eating some coleslaw that turned out to have been contaminated. This led to …

Today in Literary History – May 17, 1900 – L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is first published

L. Frank Baum's classic children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in Chicago by George M. Hill Company on May 17, 1900. Baum gave the first copy that rolled off the presses to his sister, Mary Louise Baum Brewster. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was illustrated by Baum's frequent collaborator, W.W. Denslow, …

Today in Literary History – May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov, author of “The Master and Margarita” is born

Mikhail Bulgakov, known as one of the greatest Russian novelists of the 20th century for his posthumously published masterpiece The Master and Margarita, was born in Kiev, then part of Imperial Russian, on May 15, 1891. Bulgakov came from a religious haute bourgeois family. His father was a well known professor of theology as well …

Today in Literary History – May 14, 1979 – “Wide Sargasso Sea” author Jean Rhys dies after a sad and turbulent life

Jean Rhys, the novelist who found literary fame and success at 76 with her one masterpiece, Wide Sargasso Sea, died in London on May 14, 1979 at the age of 88. She had a sad and tortured life, plagued by poverty, alcoholism, sexual abuse, prostitution, a stint in jail, stays in mental hospitals, the death of a …

Today in Literary History – May 12, 1921 – Canadian author Farley Mowat is born

Farley Mowat, the prolific author and environmentalist who wrote more than 40 books of memoirs, history and adventures in the Canadian North, both for adults and children, was born on May 12, 1921 in Belleville, Ontario. During the Depression Mowat’s father, a veteran of World War I's Battle of Vimy Ridge, moved the family to …

Today in Literary History – May 9, 1860 – “Peter Pan” author J.M. Barrie is born

J.M. Barrie, the playwright and novelist who created Peter Pan, “the boy who wouldn't grow up," was born on May 9, 1860 to a Scottish Calvinist family. Barrie had an eventful and in many ways a terribly sad life. Barrie was the ninth of 10 children. When he was 6 his next oldest brother, David, …

Today in Literary History – May 6, 1895 – Oscar Wilde is arrested on charges of “gross indecency”

The year 1895 was the beginning of the end for the great Irish playwright, novelist and wit, Oscar Wilde. It began well enough, with Wilde's masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest, opening at St James's Theatre on February 14 to great acclaim. But, four days later the Marquess of Queensberry (famed for his rules of …

Today in Literary History – May 5, 1927 – Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” is published

To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf’s fifth novel, was published on May 5, 1927. It was published in a run of 3000 copies by Hogarth Press, a publishing company set up and managed by Woolf and her husband Leonard, with a cover designed by her sister Vanessa Bell. The novel is presented in three sections, and …

Today in Literary History – May 4, 1939 – James Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake” is published

James Joyce's final book, the famously impenetrable novel Finnegan's Wake, was published on May 4, 1939, two years before Joyce's death and at a time when he was almost completely blind and in poor health. Joyce had been working on fragments of the novel since 1923 and extracts had been published in various small magazines …