E. B. White

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Elwyn Brooks White American essayist, author, and noted prose stylist, is most famous today for a writers' reference manual, and for three children's books generally considered to be classics of the field.

Born: July 11, 1899, Mount Vernon, New York
Died: October 1, 1985, North Brooklin, Maine

Graduating from Cornell University, White spent several years working as a newspaper writer and ad man before returning to New York City in 1924. He published his first article in the newly founded New Yorker magazine in 1925, then joined the staff in 1927. This made his fame for the next few decades, as he produced a long series of essays for them that were widely read as the magazine grew in influence. Over time he became the most important contributor to the New Yorker at a time when it was arguably the most important American literary magazine. He also served as a columnist for Harper's Magazine from 1938 to 1943.

In the late 1930s, he turned his hand to children's fiction on behalf of a niece. His first children's book Stuart Little was published in 1945, and Charlotte's Web appeared in 1952. Both were highly acclaimed, and in 1970 jointly won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, a major prize in the field of children's literature. In the same year, he published his third children's novel, The Trumpet of the Swan.

In 1959, he edited and updated the classic The Elements of Style. Originally written and published in 1918 by William Strunk Jr., the book is a handbook of grammatical and orthographic dos and don'ts for American English. White had studied under Strunk while at Cornell in the years following World War I. Further editions of the work followed in 1972 and 1979.

In 1978 he was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for his work as a whole. Other awards he received included a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, and memberships in a variety of literary societies throughout the United States.

He passed away in 1985, of Alzheimer's Disease at his farm home in North Brooklin, Maine. He married Katherine Sergeant Angell in 1929, and had one son.

White's style was stereotypically "Yankee": wry, understated, thoughtful, and informed. He was widely regarded as a master of the English language as writer's-tool, noted for clear, well-constructed, and charming prose.

E. B. White on His Own Writing: "The Egg is All".

An Incomplete Bibliography

Essay Collections:

  • One Man’s Meat
  • The Second Tree from the Corner
  • The Essays of E.B. White
  • Letters of E.B. White
  • Poems and Sketches of E.B. White
  • The Wild Flag

Children's Books:

Other Books: