1856 in literature
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In poetry: 1853 1854 1855 -1856- 1857 1858 1859
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The year 1856 in literature involved some significant events and new books.
- March 5 - The second Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, is destroyed by fire (as the first was in 1808).
- September 29 - English actor Henry Irving makes his stage début at Sunderland as Gaston, Duke of Orleans, in Bulwer Lytton's play Richelieu.
- Mikhail Katkov revives the title The Russian Messenger (Russian: Ру́сский ве́стник Russkiy vestnik, Pre-reform Russian: Русскій Вѣстникъ Russkiy Vestnik) for an influential literary magazine published in Moscow. In its first year he publishes Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin's Provincial Sketches (beginning in August, signed "N. Schedrin") and the text of Alexander Ostrovsky's play V chuzhom miru pohmelye ("Hangover at a Stranger's Feast"; premiered in Moscow on January 9).
- Arthur Schopenhauer adds a chapter on "The Metaphysics of Sexual Love" to the third edition of his The World as Will and Representation.
- Lewis Carroll takes up photography as a hobby.
- Bookseller W. H. Smith first publishes the Baconian theory of Shakespeare authorship.
- Richard Francis Burton serves in the army in the Crimean War and becomes engaged to Isabel Arundel.
- Alphonse Daudet begins his teaching career.
New books 
- Anonymous - Tit for Tat
- José de Alencar - Cinco minutos
- R. M. Ballantyne -The Young Fur-Traders
- Fredrika Bremer - Hertha
- William M. Burwell - White Acre vs. Black Acre
- Wilkie Collins - The Dead Secret
- Mrs. Craik - John Halifax, Gentleman
- Caroline Lee Hentz - Ernest Linwood
- Geraldine Jewsbury - The Sorrows of Gentility
- Gottfried Keller - Die Leute von Seldwyla
- Herman Melville
- Eduard Mörike - Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag
- Charles Reade - It Is Never Too Late to Mend
- Harriet Beecher Stowe - Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp
- Leo Tolstoy - Youth
- Ivan Turgenev - Rudin
- Charlotte Mary Yonge - The Daisy Chain
- Gustave Flaubert - Madame Bovary
New drama 
- Sava Dobroplodni - Mihal the Mouse-Eater (first authorised theatrical production in Bulgaria)
- Colin Henry Hazlewood - Jessie Vere, or the Return of the Wanderer
- Henrik Ibsen - Olaf Liljekrans
- Gustav Räder - Robert and Bertram
- Lord Dufferin -Letters From High Latitudes
- J. A. Froude - History of England
- Washington Irving - The Life of George Washington, Volume 3
- Hermann Lotze - Mikrokosmos
- William Ridley - gurre kamilaroi
- Alexis de Tocqueville - L'Ancien régime et la révolution
- Henry Morley - Cornelius Agrippa: The Life of Henry Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Doctor and Knight, Commonly known as a Magician.
- January 9 - Lizette Woodworth Reese, poet (died 1935)
- February 14 - Frank Harris, journalist, publisher and memoirist (died 1931)
- April 5 - Booker T. Washington, African-American educator, author, orator, and political advisor (died 1915)
- May 15 - L. Frank Baum, Wizard of Oz author (died 1919)
- July 25 - Charles Major, novelist (died 1913)
- July 26 - George Bernard Shaw, dramatist (died 1950)
- date unknown - Maria Cederschiöld, journalist (died 1935)
- January - James Baillie Fraser, travel writer, 72
- February 17 - Heinrich Heine, poet, 58
- April 26 - Pyotr Chaadaev, philosopher, 61
- June 11 - Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen, philologist, 76
- June 26 - Max Stirner, philosopher, 49
- June 27 - Joseph Meyer, publisher and encyclopaedist, 60
- July 11 - Josef Kajetán Tyl, dramatist and author of the Czech national anthem, 48
- July 21 - Emil Aarestrup, poet, 55
- July 29 - Karel Havlíček Borovský, poet, critic and publisher, 34 (tuberculosis)
- August 24 - William Buckland, antiquarian, 72
- August 30 - Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, humorous writer, 45 (typhoid)
- October 13 - Robert Christie, historian and journalist, 69
- November 10 - Johann Kaspar Zeuss, historian, 50
- King Alfred surveying Oxford University at the present time: A prize poem, recited in the Theatre, Oxford, June 4th, 1856 (Newdigate prize poem; T & G Shrimpton, 1856)