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 – Charles Dickens buys Gads Hill Place in Kent (England) from fellow novelist Eliza Lynn.
- 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 – G. H. Lewes submits "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton", the first of George Eliot's Scenes of Clerical Life and her first work of fiction, to Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 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.
- Lewis Carroll takes up photography as a hobby.
- English bookseller W. H. Smith first publishes the Baconian theory of Shakespeare authorship.
- 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.
- Richard Francis Burton serves in the British Army in the Crimean War and becomes engaged to Isabel Arundel.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 66: 442–61.
- Suarez, Michael F.; Woudhuysen, H. R., ed. (2013). The Book: A Global History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967941-6.
- 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)