FEBRUARY LITERARY BIRTHDAYS

(Complete list of February authors here.)

Featured Authors

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27 Feb. 1807 - March 1882)

Longfellow was born in Portland, attended Bowdoin College (1822-1825) with Nathaniel Hawthorne, and soon after became professor of modern languages there from 1829-1835. He went on to teach at Harvard from 1836-1854. For more biography, check Eclectic Esoterica's Longfellow page, which also has full-text of 21 of Longfellow's poems, including 'The Children's Hour,' 'Evangeline,' 'Paul Revere's Ride,' and 'The Village Blacksmith.' Wikipedia provides more information on 'Evangeline' and about the place called Acadia. The Center for Maine History has info about the 1785 Wadsworth-Longfellow home. Bowdoin College offers an online collection guide to Longfellow's personal papers. The first comprehensive biography of Longfellow to be published in almost 50 years was written by Charles Calhoun in 2004, titled Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life.

Longfellow's works (poems and books) include:


Charles [John Huffman] Dickens, English novelist (7 Feb. 1812 - 9 June 1870)

Dickens was the second of eight children in a family always in debt, so he knew firsthand the misery of child labor (factory work), hunger, and debtors' prison. His childhood poverty and adversity shaped his later passion for social reform and his compassion for the lower classes, especially for children, which is obvious in the novels, short stories, and articles he wrote.

Many of Dickens' novels are available on line, including Nicholas Nickleby (1839), Martin Chuzzlewit (1844), Dombey and Son (1848), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1861), and The Pickwick Papers (1837; this novel and Sketches by Boz, 1836, catapulted Dickens to instant fame) through Bibliomania and A Christmas Carol (1843), and David Copperfield (1850) through other sites. Other novels are Oliver Twist (1838), The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), Barnaby Rudge (1841), American Notes (1842), The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), Bleak House (1853), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1857), Our Mutual Friend (1865), Edwin Drood (1870; unfinished).

There's a big, well-updated Dickens site with info on the Dickens Society, the Dickens Project, Dickens' works, e-texts, bibliography, and chronology, and links to other Dickens pages. David Perdue's Dickens Page is also attractive and useful, with a bio, info on Dickens' London, list of works and illustrations, a timeline, Dickens in America, etc. George Landow's Victorian Web offers a good overview of Dickens. Charles Dickens-Gad's Hill Place offers a daily dose of Dickens, a searchable quotes database, essays and articles on Dickens and his work, etc.


Sinclair Lewis, novelist and social critic, winner of 1930 Nobel (7 Feb. 1885 - 10 Jan. 1951)

Sinclair Lewis, born in Sauk Center, Minn., was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. After receiving his A.B. from Yale University in 1907, he was for a time a member of Upton Sinclair's Helicon Hall, a socialist, Utopian society in New Jersey. When the Panama Canal was being built, he went to find work there but was unsuccessful and returned to the midwest as a reporter and editor.

Lewis went east again in 1910, married in 1914 (divorced 1925, remarried 1928), and began writing novels full time in 1916. Our Mr. Wrenn (1914), The Trail of the Hawk (1915), The Job (1917), The Innocents (1917), Free Air (1919) were all written before Main Street, Lewis's break-through book, was published in 1920. Babbit followed in 1922 (written in Italy and England) and Arrowsmith in 1925; Lewis refused the Pulitzer Prize of $1000 for Arrowsmith in 1926 as a protest against the restrictive terms of the award.

Lewis published Mantrap in 1926, Elmer Gantry in 1927, The Man who Knew Coolidge in 1928, and Dodsworth in 1929; this last was a satire on Americans abroad, written while Lewis travelled in England.

When Lewis accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930, he 'lived up to his reputation as a non-conformist and firebrand by his vehement speech in which he attacked the professors and men of letters who would subject American literature to conventional standards of taste and morals.' (Living Authors, [New York: The H.W. Wilson Co., 1932], pp. 224-226). A Sinclair Lewis Page offers biography, timeline, bibliography, and information on the Sinclair Lewis Society.


W[ystan] H[ugh] Auden, U.S. poet, winner of 1948 Pulitzer (21 Feb. 1907 - 28 Sept. 1973)

The English-born but Americanised (1946) Auden (who considered himself not an American but a New Yorker) was an anti-war socialist whose poems are concerned with the dissolution of civilisation and culture. Besides living in England and America, he also lived in Germany (before the Nazis), Austria, and Italy. He won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Anxiety (1947), the 1954 Bollinger Poetry Prize, and the 1967 National Medal for Literature.

Auden's 'Three Short Poems' and 'In Praise of Limestone' are available on line, as are 11 more through the Academy of American Poets, which also has biographical information on Auden. More brief biographical information on Auden is provided here; the W.H. Auden Society website has news, links to poems, a list of critical works, archives of the Society's newsletter, and more.

Since 11 Sept. 2001, Auden's poem 'September 1, 1939' has been widely quoted. An essay titled 'Auden on Bin Laden' by Slate magazine's by Eric McHenry comments on this association.


Other February Birthdays