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.
- January 1 – M. H. Gill, printer to Dublin University, purchases the publishing and bookselling business of James McGlashan, renaming it McGlashan & Gill, the predecessor of Gill & Macmillan.
- March – Charles Dickens buys Gads Hill Place in Kent (England) from fellow novelist Eliza Lynn.
- March 1 – Lewis Carroll chooses his pseudonym; on May 1 he takes up photography as a hobby.
- 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.
- October – Marian Evans (who has not yet adopted the pseudonym George Eliot) publishes a critical article "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists" in the Westminster Review.
- October 1–December 15 – Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary is serialized in Revue de Paris.
- November 6 – The first of George Eliot's Scenes of Clerical Life and her first work of fiction, "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton", is submitted to Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine by G. H. Lewes for anonymous publication.
- November 18 – English-born actress Laura Keene opens her own theatre in New York City.
- November 20 – Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville meet when Hawthorne is United States consul in Liverpool.
- 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.
- Poet Juris Alunāns' Songs becomes the first significant published literary work in Latvian.
- English bookseller W. H. Smith first publishes the Baconian theory of Shakespeare authorship.
- Richard Francis Burton serves in the British Army in the Crimean War, becomes engaged to Isabel Arundel and sets off on an expedition to the African Great Lakes.
- Alphonse Daudet begins his teaching career.
- 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
- Charles Dickens and others – The Wreck of the Golden Mary
- 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
- George Sand
- Lucrezia Floriani
- La Mare au diable
- 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
- 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
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Aurora Leigh
- Victor Hugo – Les Contemplations
- See also 1856 in poetry
- Alphonse Louis Constant - Rituel de la haute magie
- Lord Dufferin – Letters From High Latitudes
- Alexander Kinloch Forbes – Rasmala
- J. A. Froude – History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth (begins publication)
- Washington Irving – The Life of George Washington, Volume 3
- Hermann Lotze – Mikrokosmos
- Henry Morley – Cornelius Agrippa: The Life of Henry Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Doctor and Knight, Commonly known as a Magician
- William Ridley – gurre kamilaroi
- Alexis de Tocqueville – L'Ancien régime et la révolution
- January 9 – Lizette Woodworth Reese, poet (died 1935)
- February 14 – Frank Harris, Irish-born American journalist and memoirist (died 1931)
- April 5 – Booker T. Washington, African-American educator, author and orator (died 1915)
- May 15 – L. Frank Baum, American children's writer, novelist and poet (died 1919)
- July 25 – Charles Major, American novelist and lawyer (died 1913)
- July 26 – George Bernard Shaw, Irish dramatist and critic (died 1950)
- Unknown date – Maria Cederschiöld, Swedish journalist and suffragette (died 1935)
- January – James Baillie Fraser, Scottish travel writer (born 1783)
- February 17 – Heinrich Heine, German poet (born 1797)
- April 26 – Pyotr Chaadaev, Russian philosopher (born 1794)
- June 11 – Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen, German philologist (born 1780)
- June 26 – Max Stirner, German philosopher (born 1806)
- June 27 – Joseph Meyer, German publisher and encyclopedist (born 1796)
- July 11 – Josef Kajetán Tyl, Czech dramatist and author of national anthem (born 1808)
- July 21 – Emil Aarestrup, Danish poet (born 1800)
- July 29 – Karel Havlíček Borovský, Czech poet, critic and publisher (tuberculosis, born 1821)
- August 24 – William Buckland, English theologian and antiquary (born 1784)
- August 30 – Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, English humorist (typhoid, born 1811)
- October 13 – Robert Christie, Canadian historian and journalist (born 1787)
- November 10 – Johann Kaspar Zeuss, German historian (born 1806)
- Suarez, Michael F.; Woudhuysen, H. R., ed. (2013). The Book: A Global History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967941-6.
- 66: 442–61.
- Bodenheimer, Rosemarie (2001). "A Woman of Many Names". In Levine, George (ed). The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot. Cambridge University Press. p. 29.
- Sutherland, John; Fender, Stephen (2011). Love, Sex, Death & Words: Surprising Tales from a Year in Literature. London: Icon. p. 441. ISBN 978-184831-247-0.
- First published November 15 but dated 1857.
- 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)