Hugh Lofting

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Hugh John Lofting
Born (1886-01-14)14 January 1886
Maidenhead, Berkshire, England
Died 26 September 1947(1947-09-26) (aged 61)
Topanga, California
Occupation Novelist, Poet
Genre Children's literature, Fantasy
Notable works Doctor Dolittle
Notable awards Newbery Medal
1923
Relatives Hilary Lofting (the eldest brother)

Hugh John Lofting (14 January 1886 – 26 September 1947) was a British author, trained as a civil engineer, who created the character of Doctor Dolittle, one of the classics of children's literature.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Lofting was born in Maidenhead, England, to English and Irish parents. His eldest brother was Hilary Lofting, who later became a novelist in Australia, having migrated there in 1915.

Hugh Lofting's education was at Mount St Mary's College in Sheffield. He then went to the United States, where he took classes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1905 to 1906.[2]

He travelled widely as a civil engineer, before enlisting in the Irish Guards to serve in the First World War. Not wishing to write to his children about the brutality of the war, he wrote imaginative letters which later became the foundation of the successful Doctor Dolittle novels for children. Seriously wounded in the war, Lofting moved with his family to Killingworth, Connecticut, in the United States.[3] He was married three times and had three children, one of whom, his son Christopher, is the executor of his literary estate.

Lofting commented, "For years it was a constant source of shock to me to find my writings amongst 'juveniles'. It does not bother me any more now, but I still feel there should be a category of 'seniles' to offset the epithet."[4]

Doctor Dolittle[edit]

Main article: Doctor Dolittle
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting's character Doctor Dolittle, from Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, who could speak to animals, first saw light in the author's illustrated letters to children, written from the trenches during the War of 1914 to 1918, when actual news, he later said, was either too horrible or too dull. The stories are set in early Victorian England, around the 1840s, according to a date given in The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts Never Before Printed (1920) began the series and won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958. The sequel, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922), won Lofting the prestigious Newbery Medal. Eight more books followed, and after Lofting's death two more volumes appeared, composed of short unpublished pieces.

The internal chronology of the books is somewhat different from the publishing order. The first book is followed by Doctor Dolittle's Post Office (1923), Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924) and Doctor Dolittle's Caravan (1926). Only then follows the second book, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922), continued by Doctor Dolittle's Zoo (1925). After that, the publishing order is restored; Doctor Dolittle's Garden (1927) is followed by Doctor Dolittle in the Moon (1928) and Doctor Dolittle's Return (1933), ending with Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake (1948).[4]

The series has been adapted for film and television many times, for stage twice, and also for radio.

Other works for children[edit]

The Story of Mrs Tubbs (1923) and Tommy, Tilly, and Mrs. Tubbs (1936) are picture books aimed at a younger audience than the Doctor Dolittle books. They are about the old woman of the title and her pets, with whom she can speak, and the animals who help her out of trouble.

Porridge Poetry (1924) is the only non-Dolittle work by Lofting still in print. It is a lighthearted, colorfully illustrated book of poems for children.

Noisy Nora (1929) is a cautionary tale about a girl who is a noisy eater. The book is printed as if hand-written, and the many illustrations often merge with the text.

The Twilight of Magic (1930) is aimed at older readers. It is set in an age when magic is dying and science is beginning. This work is the only one of Lofting's books to be illustrated by another person (Lois Lenski).[4]

Victory for the Slain[edit]

Victory for the Slain (1942) is Lofting's only work for adults, a single long poem in seven parts about the futility of war; the refrain "In war the only victors are the slain" permeates the poem. It was published only in the United Kingdom.[4]

Works[edit]

  1. The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920) ISBN 13:978-0099427322
  2. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922) ISBN 13:978-0099854708
  3. Doctor Dolittle's Post Office (1923) ISBN 13:978-0099880400
  4. The Story of Mrs Tubbs (1923)
  5. Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924) ISBN 13:978-1612035390
  6. Porridge Poetry (1924)
  7. Doctor Dolittle's Zoo (1925) ISBN 13:978-009988031
  8. Doctor Dolittle's Caravan (1926) ISBN 13:978-099854500
  9. Doctor Dolittle's Garden (1927) ISBN 13:978-0099880509
  10. Doctor Dolittle in the Moon (1928) ISBN 13:978-0099880608/978-1612035369
  11. Noisy Nora (1929)
  12. The Twilight of Magic (1930)
  13. Gub Gub's Book: An Encyclopedia of Food (1932)
  14. Doctor Dolittle's Return (1933) ISBN 13:978-099880707
  15. Doctor Dolittle's Birthday Book (1936)
  16. Tommy, Tilly, and Mrs. Tubbs (1936)
  17. Victory for the Slain (1942)
  18. Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake (1948) ISBN 13:978-0099880806
  19. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary (1950) ISBN 13:978-1406763393
  20. Doctor Dolittle's Puddleby Adventures (1952) ISBN 13:978-009981001

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hugh Lofting". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  2. ^ Bulletin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology 41 (1): 386. December 1905. 
  3. ^ Pietrzyk, Cindi. Connecticut Off the Beaten Path, p. 157 (Globe Pequot, 2013).
  4. ^ a b c d Schmidt, G.D.(1992). Hugh Lofting. New York: Twayne Publishing

External links[edit]