Hugh Lofting

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Hugh Lofting
Lofting as a young man
Lofting as a young man
BornHugh John Lofting
(1886-01-14)14 January 1886
Maidenhead, Berkshire, England
Died26 September 1947(1947-09-26) (aged 61)
Topanga, California, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, Poet
GenreChildren's literature, Fantasy
Notable worksDoctor Dolittle
Notable awardsNewbery Medal
RelativesHilary Lofting (brother)
Military career

Hugh John Lofting (14 January 1886 – 26 September 1947) was an English author trained as a civil engineer, who created the classic children's literature character of Doctor Dolittle.[1] It first appeared in illustrated letters to his children written by Lofting from the British Army trenches in the First World War.

Personal life[edit]

Lofting, born in January 1886 in Maidenhead, Berkshire, to Elizabeth Agnes (Gannon) and John Brien Lofting, was of English and Irish ancestry.[2] His eldest brother, Hilary Lofting, later became a novelist in Australia, having emigrated there in 1915.

Lofting was educated at Mount St Mary's College in Spinkhill, Derbyshire. From 1905 to 1906, he studied civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.[3][4]

Lofting travelled widely as a civil engineer before enlisting in the Irish Guards regiment of the British Army in the First World War. Not wishing to write to his children about the brutal war, he wrote imaginative letters, which later became the foundation of the successful Doctor Dolittle novels for children. Seriously wounded in the war, in 1919 Lofting moved with his family to Killingworth, Connecticut.[5] He was married three times and had three children, one of whom, his son Christopher, became the executor of his literary estate.

Doctor Dolittle[edit]

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting's character, Doctor John Dolittle, an English physician from "Puddleby-on-the-Marsh" in the West Country, who could speak to animals, first saw light in illustrated letters written to his children from the trenches, when actual news, he later said, was too horrible or too dull. The stories are set in early Victorian England in the 1820s–1840s – The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle gives a date of 1839.[6]

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 him a posthumous Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958. The sequel The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922) won a Newbery Medal. Eight more books followed, and after Lofting's death, two more appeared, composed of short, previously unpublished pieces.

The chronology of the stories differs somewhat from the publishing order. The first book was followed by Doctor Dolittle's Post Office (1923), Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924) and Doctor Dolittle's Caravan (1926). Only then came the second, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922), continued in Doctor Dolittle's Zoo (1925). After that, the chronology is restored; Doctor Dolittle's Garden (1927) was followed by Doctor Dolittle in the Moon (1928) and Doctor Dolittle's Return (1933), ending with Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake (1948).[6]

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 tell of the old woman 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, colourfully 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 beginning. This work is the only one of Lofting's books to be illustrated by another person: Lois Lenski.[6]

Victory for the Slain[edit]

Victory for the Slain (1942), Lofting's only work for adults, consists of a single long poem in seven parts about the futility of war, permeated by the refrain "In war the only victors are the slain." It appeared only in the United Kingdom.[6]

Main works[edit]

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."[6]

  1. The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920) ISBN 978-0099427322
  2. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922) ISBN 978-0099854708
  3. Doctor Dolittle's Post Office (1923) ISBN 978-0099880400
  4. The Story of Mrs Tubbs (1923)
  5. Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924) ISBN 978-1612035390
  6. Porridge Poetry (1924)
  7. Doctor Dolittle's Zoo (1992, mass-market paperback) ISBN 978-0-09-988030-1 (1925, hardcover) ISBN 978-0-397-30009-9
  8. Doctor Dolittle's Caravan (1992, mass-market paperback) ISBN 978-0-09-985450-0 (1926, hardcover) ISBN 978-0-397-30011-2
  9. Doctor Dolittle's Garden (1927) ISBN 978-0099880509
  10. Doctor Dolittle in the Moon (1928) ISBN 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 978-0-09-988070-7
  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 978-0099880806
  19. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary (1950) ISBN 978-1406763393
  20. Doctor Dolittle's Puddleby Adventures (1952) OCLC 1185760 ISBN 978-0-14-030409-1


  1. ^ "Hugh Lofting". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Register of Students" (PDF). Bulletin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 41 (1): 386. December 1905. Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 September 2015. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  4. ^ "150 Years in the Stacks – Year 60 – 1920: The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting". Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries. Archived from the original on 29 November 2015. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  5. ^ Cindi Pietrzyk, Connecticut Off the Beaten Path, p. 157 (Globe Pequot, 2013).
  6. ^ a b c d e G. D. Schmidt (1992), Hugh Lofting. New York: Twayne Publishing.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Newbery Medal winner
Succeeded by