E. B. White
|E. B. White|
White on the beach with his dog Minnie
Elwyn Brooks White|
July 11, 1899
Mount Vernon, New York, U.S.
October 1, 1985 (aged 86)|
North Brooklin, Maine, U.S.
(m. 1929; d. 1977)
Elwyn Brooks White (July 11, 1899 – October 1, 1985) was an American writer and a world federalist. For more than fifty years, he was a contributor to The New Yorker magazine. He was also a co-author of the English language style guide The Elements of Style, which is commonly known as Strunk & White. In addition, he wrote books for children, including Stuart Little (c. 1945), Charlotte's Web (c. 1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (c. 1970). In a 2012 survey of School Library Journal readers, Charlotte's Web was voted the top children's novel.
White was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the youngest child of Samuel Tilly White, the president of a piano firm, and Jessie Hart White, the daughter of Scottish-American painter William Hart. Elwyn's older brother Stanley Hart White, known as Stan, a professor of landscape architecture and the inventor of the Vertical Garden, taught E. B. White to read and to explore the natural world. White graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor of arts degree in 1921. He got the nickname "Andy" at Cornell, where tradition confers that moniker on any male student whose surname is White, after Cornell co-founder Andrew Dickson White. While at Cornell, he worked as editor of The Cornell Daily Sun with classmate Allison Danzig, who later became a sportswriter for The New York Times. White was also a member of the Aleph Samach and Quill and Dagger societies and Phi Gamma Delta ("Fiji") fraternity.
After graduation, White worked for the United Press (now United Press International) and the American Legion News Service in 1921 and 1922. In 1922-23, he was a cub reporter for The Seattle Times. On one occasion, when White was stuck writing a story, a Times editor said, "Just say the words." He then worked for almost two years with the Frank Seaman advertising agency as a production assistant and copywriter before returning to New York City in 1924. When The New Yorker was founded in 1925, White submitted manuscripts to it. Katharine Angell, the literary editor, recommended to editor-in-chief and founder Harold Ross that White be hired as a staff writer. However, it took months to convince him to come to a meeting at the office and additional weeks to convince him to work on the premises. Eventually, he agreed to work in the office on Thursdays.
White was shy around women, claiming he had “too small a heart, too large a pen." But in 1929, culminating an affair which led to her divorce, White and Katherine Angell were married. They had a son, Joel White, a naval architect and boat builder, who later owned Brooklin Boat Yard in Brooklin, Maine. Katharine's son from her first marriage, Roger Angell, has spent decades as a fiction editor for The New Yorker and is well known as the magazine's baseball writer.
In her foreword to Charlotte's Web, Kate DiCamillo quotes White as saying, "All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world." White also loved animals, farms and farming implements, seasons, and weather formats.
James Thurber described White as a quiet man who disliked publicity and who, during his time at The New Yorker, would slip out of his office via the fire escape to a nearby branch of Schrafft's to avoid visitors whom he didn't know.
Most of us, out of a politeness made up of faint curiosity and profound resignation, go out to meet the smiling stranger with a gesture of surrender and a fixed grin, but White has always taken to the fire escape. He has avoided the Man in the Reception Room as he has avoided the interviewer, the photographer, the microphone, the rostrum, the literary tea, and the Stork Club. His life is his own. He is the only writer of prominence I know of who could walk through the Algonquin lobby or between the tables at Jack and Charlie's and be recognized only by his friends.— James Thurber, E. B. W., "Credos and Curios"
E. B. White published his first article in The New Yorker in 1925, then joined the staff in 1927 and continued to contribute for almost six decades. Best recognized for his essays and unsigned "Notes and Comment" pieces, he gradually became the magazine's most important contributor, this at a time when it was arguably the most important literary magazine in America. From the beginning to the end of his career at The New Yorker, he frequently provided what the magazine calls "Newsbreaks" (short, witty comments on oddly worded printed items from many sources) under various categories such as "Block That Metaphor." He also served as a columnist for Harper's Magazine from 1938 to 1943.
In 1949, White published Here Is New York, a short book based on an article he had been commissioned to write for Holiday. Editor Ted Patrick approached White about writing the essay telling him it would be fun. "Writing is never 'fun,' replied White. That article reflects the writer's appreciation of a city that provides its residents with both "the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy." It concludes with a dark note touching on the forces that could destroy the city that he loved. This prescient "love letter" to the city was re-published in 1999 on his centennial with an introduction by his stepson, Roger Angell.
In 1959, White edited and updated The Elements of Style. This handbook of grammatical and stylistic guidance for writers of American English was first written and published in 1918 by William Strunk Jr., one of White's professors at Cornell. White's reworking of the book was extremely well received, and later editions followed in 1972, 1979, and 1999. Maira Kalman illustrated an edition in 2005. That same year, a New York composer named Nico Muhly premiered a short opera based on the book. The volume is a standard tool for students and writers and remains required reading in many composition classes. The complete history of The Elements of Style is detailed in Mark Garvey's Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style.
In 1978, White won a special Pulitzer Prize citing "his letters, essays and the full body of his work". He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 and honorary memberships in a variety of literary societies throughout the United States. The 1973 Oscar-nominated Canadian animated short The Family That Dwelt Apart is narrated by White and is based on his short story of the same name.
In the late 1930s, White turned his hand to children's fiction on behalf of a niece, Janice Hart White. His first children's book, Stuart Little, was published in 1945, and Charlotte's Web appeared in 1952. Stuart Little initially received a lukewarm welcome from the literary community. However, both books went on to receive high acclaim, and Charlotte's Web won the Newbery Medal from the American Library Association.
White received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the U.S. professional children's librarians in 1970. It recognized his "substantial and lasting contributions to children's literature."  That year he was also the U.S. nominee and eventual runner-up for the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award, as he was again in 1976. Also in 1970, White's third children's novel was published, The Trumpet of the Swan. In 1973 it won the Sequoyah Award from Oklahoma and the William Allen White Award from Kansas, both selected by students voting for their favorite book of the year. In 2012, School Library Journal sponsored a survey of readers which identified Charlotte's Web as the best children's novel ("fictional title for readers 9–12" years old). The librarian who conducted it said, "It is impossible to conduct a poll of this sort and expect [White's novel] to be anywhere but #1."
Awards and honors
- 1960 American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal
- 1963 Presidential Medal of Freedom
- 1970 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award
- 1971 National Medal for Literature
- 1977 L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award, Letters of E. B. White
- 1978 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for Letters
- 1953 Newbery Medal for Charlotte's Web
The E.B. White Read Aloud Award is given by The Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) to honor books that its membership feel embodies the universal read-aloud standards that E. B. White's works created.
- Less than Nothing, or, The Life and Times of Sterling Finny (1927)
- White, E. B. (1929). The lady is cold : poems by E. B. W. New York: Harper and Brothers.
- Thurber, James; White, E. B. (1929). Is sex necessary? Or, why you feel the way you do. New Yorker: Harper & Brothers.
- Alice Through the Cellophane, John Day (1933)
- A Subtreasury of American Humor (1941). Co-edited with Katherine S. White.
- One Man's Meat (1942): A collection of his columns from Harper's Magazine
- The Wild Flag: Editorials From The New Yorker On Federal World Government And Other Matters (1943)
- Stuart Little (1945)
- Here Is New York
- Charlotte's Web (1952)
- The Second Tree from the Corner (1954)
- The Elements of Style (with William Strunk, Jr.) (1959, republished 1972, 1979, 1999, 2005)
- The Points of My Compass (1962)
- The Trumpet of the Swan (1970)
- Letters of E. B. White (1976)
- Essays of E. B. White (1977)
- Poems and Sketches of E. B. White (1981)
- Writings from "The New Yorker" (1990)
- In the Words of E. B. White (2011)
- Every Day is Saturday
- Quo Vadimus?
- The Fox of Peapack
- Farewell to Model T
- An E. B. White Reader. Edited by William W. Watt and Robert W. Bradford.
Essays and reporting
- E. B. W. (April 18, 1925). "A step forward". The New Yorker. 1 (9): 21.
- — (May 9, 1925). "Defense of the Bronx River". The New Yorker. 1 (12): 14.
- Mitgang, Herbert (October 2, 1985). "E. B. White, Essayist and Stylist, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
- White, E. B. (1946). The Wild Flag: Editorials From The New Yorker On Federal World Government And Other Matters. Houghton Mifflin Company.
- "SLJ's Top 100 Children's Novels" Archived January 5, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. (poster presentation of reader poll results). A Fuse #8 Production. School Library Journal. 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
- Root, Robert L. (1999). E. B. White: The Emergence of an Essayist. University of Iowa Press. p. 23. ISBN 9780877456674.
- Stanley Hart White and the question of ‘What is Modern?’ Richard L. Hindle Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes Vol. 33, Iss. 3, 2013
- White, Elwyn Brooks; Guth, Dorothy Lobrano; White, Martha (2006). "Cornell and the Open Road". Letters of E. B. White, Revised Edition. New York City: HarperCollins. pp. 17–19. ISBN 9780060757083.
- "Week 20 – Writing Quotations". www.joesutt.com. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
- "E. B. White Biography". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
- Thurber, James (1969). "E. B. W.". Credos and Curios. Penguin Books. p. 124. ISBN 9780140030440.
- "Is Sex Necessary?". The Attic. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
- White, E. B. (1952). Charlotte's Web. Harper. p. ii. ISBN 978-0-06-440055-8.
- Elledge, Scott (1984). E. B. White: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 9780393017717.
- Callahan, Michael. "The Visual and Writerly Genius of Holiday Magazine". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
- "Special Awards and Citations". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
- "The Family That Dwelt Apart". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved November 25, 2012.
"Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, Past winners". ALSC. ALA.
"About the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
- Weales, Gerald (May 24, 1970). "The Designs of E. B. White". The New York Times. Page BR22.
- "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002". The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online (literature.at). Retrieved July 16, 2013.
- Bird, Elizabeth (July 2, 2012). "Top 100 Children's Novels #1: Charlotte's Web by E. B. White". A Fuse #8 Production. School Library Journal. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
- Elledge, Scott (1986). E.B. White: a Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. p. 383. ISBN 9780393303056.
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