Today is the 122nd birthday of the author E.B. White. I have very specific memories of reading The Trumpet of the Swan as a kid on a bunk in the back room at my grandparent’s lake cabin. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: E.B. White
BIRTH DATE: July 11, 1899
DEATH DATE: October 1, 1985
EDUCATION: Cornell University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Mount Vernon, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: North Brooklin, Maine
CAUSE OF DEATH: Alzheimer’s
REMAINS: Buried, Brooklin Cemetery, Brooklin, ME
FULL NAME: Elwyn Brooks White
FATHER: Samuel White (piano manufacturer)
MOTHER: Jessie Hart White
WIFE: Katherine Sergeant Angell White (New Yorker editor, m. 1929)
SON: Joel White
Presidential Medal of Freedom 1963
Pulitzer Prize 1978 (special)
The New Yorker Staff (1927-76)
Harper’s Columnist (1938-43)
BEST KNOWN FOR: Writer E.B. White was the author of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and ‘Stuart Little,’ contributor to ‘The New Yorker’ and co-author of ‘The Elements of Style.’
White was born on July 11, 1899, in Mount Vernon, New York. His parents named him Elwyn Brooks White, but he did not appreciate the name. “I never liked Elwyn. My mother just hung it on me because she’d run out of names,” he told The New York Times in 1980. “I was her sixth child.”
While attending Cornell University, White acquired the nickname “Andy,” which he was known by for the rest of his life. In college, he served as the editor of the school’s newspaper; after graduating in 1921, White pursued a career in journalism for several years. He worked for the United Press and the Seattle Times before eventually landing a position with The New Yorker magazine in 1927. For the rest of his career, he would work with this literary publication.
White also met his wife, Katharine, an editor and writer, at The New Yorker. The couple married in 1929.
In addition to his work for The New Yorker, White took on a number of other literary projects. He and James Thurber penned the humorous 1929 book Is Sex Necessary? Or, Why You Feel the Way You Do. White also created classics of children’s literature. His first children’s book was published in 1945. Stuart Little related the delightful adventures of a mouse living with his human family in New York City.
By the end of the 1930s, White and his family were spending most of their time at their Maine farmhouse. One day, White spotted a spider spinning an egg sac in his barn in Maine. This encounter provided the inspiration for what is perhaps his most beloved work, Charlotte’s Web (1952), about the friendship between a spider named Charlotte and Wilbur the pig.
Though White was becoming known for his work for children, he continued to write for adults as well. His literary classic Here Is New York, published as an essay in 1948 before being reprinted in book form the following year, is to many the quintessential depiction of the Big Apple experience. He also revised an earlier work by William Strunk Jr., coming out with his take on The Elements of Style in 1959. The advice contained in this well-known book helped to shape and inspire many future generations of writers.
White received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. He followed this accomplishment with his third classic work for young readers, The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). In 1971, White was awarded the National Medal for Literature.
White wrote numerous poems and essays during his life; a collection of his essays came out in 1977. That same year, White’s wife passed away. He was devastated by the loss.
On October 1, 1985, White died at his home in North Brooklin, Maine. He was 86 and, according to The New York Times, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. White was survived by his son, Joel, his stepchildren, Roger Angell and Nancy Stableford and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Is the subject of books:
Meet E. B. White, 2001, BY: S. Ward
E. B. White: The Children’s Books, 1995, BY: Lucien L. Agosta
E. B. White The Elements of a Writer, 1995, BY: Janice Tingum
E. B. White: Some Writer!, 1992, BY: Beverly Gherman
To the Point: A Story About E. B. White, 1989, BY: David R. Collins, Amy Johnson
E. B. White: A Biography, 1984, BY: Scott Elledge
E. B. White, 1974, BY: E. Sampson
Author of books:
One Man’s Meat (1942)
Stuart Little (1945, juvenile)
Here is New York (1949)
Charlotte’s Web (1952, juvenile)
The Second Tree From The Corner (1954)
The Elements of Style (1959, nonfiction, with William Strunk)
Points of My Compass (1962)
The Trumpet of the Swan (1970, juvenile)
Letters of E. B. White (1976, letters)
Poems and Sketches of E. B. White (1981)