Since I am an already infamous living white chick, I became curious about some of the pen names (pseudonyms) used by famous writers. Thanks as always to Wikipedia for the list that started me off. I have chosen authors that resonate for me, but there are many more to explore. As the post evolved, I also decided to focus on the dead white guys first.
Dead White Guys Who Wrote Weird and Wonderful Children’s Books
The wonderful writer of Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel. His pen name is based on his mother’s maiden name, which is also his middle name. Check out Seussville.
C.S. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia books (the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe etc.). He used the pseudonym Clive Hamilton (Lewis’ first name followed by his mother’s maiden name) for his first published work, Spirits in Bondage (1919) and Dymer (1926). Both are works of poetry.
In 1960 he used the name N. W. Clerk to publish A Grief Observed because it was about how he dealt with his wife’s death. There is a nice site (Into the Wardrobe) you can visit for quotes and factual information about C.S that is not based on religion…
Another favorite book of mine, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was written under the pen name of Lewis Carroll who was really Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. What I like the most about this writer is his word play. In addition to being a writer, he was also a mathematician, logician, and photographer, which shows that you don’t have to choose science OR art..you can do both!
James Herriot wrote the books that the British TV series, All Creatures Great and Small, was based on. The stories were experienced by James Alfred Wight (also known as Alf Wight) although as I just discovered:
Contrary to popular belief, Wight’s books are only partially autobiographical, with many of the stories being only loosely based on real events or people. Wight’s son, Jim, states that a lot of the stories, although set in the 1930s, 40s or 50s in the books, were actually inspired by cases that Wight attended in the 1960s and 70s.
Too bad. But still does not detract from the magic of those tails and how much pleasure they still give me.
Dead White Guys Who Wrote Dystopian Literature
Dystopian fiction – a genre of literature that explore social and political structures, in particular related to the creation of an utterly horrible or degraded society.
A Clockwork Orange is the only work I have read by Anthony Burgess, born John [‘Jack’] Burgess Wilson. And thanks to the magic of the Internet, I just learned something (from the same Wikipedia link):
Near the time of publication the final chapter was cut from the American edition of the book. Burgess had written A Clockwork Orange with twenty-one chapters, meaning to match the age of majority. “21 is the symbol of human maturity, or used to be, since at 21 you got to vote and assumed adult responsibility,” Burgess wrote in a foreword for a 1986 edition. Needing a paycheck and thinking that the publisher was “being charitable in accepting the work at all,” Burgess accepted the deal and allowed A Clockwork Orange to be published in the U.S. with the twenty-first chapter omitted. Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange was based on the American edition, and thus helped to perpetuate the loss of the last chapter.
The books Animal Farm and 1984 are two of my all time favourites that we had to read in high school. George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair and he died in 1950…yet still:
“Orwell’s work continues to influence popular and political culture, and the term Orwellian — descriptive of totalitarian or authoritarian social practices — has entered the language together with several of his neologisms, including Cold War, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Big Brother and thought police.”
Dead White Guy With a Funny Pen Name..
Mrs. Silence Dogood
Benjamin Franklin, you know, that American founding father? He also had trouble getting published. So he used the pen name Mrs. Silence Dogood to get his work published, after being denied several times to send a letter to the paper publication. The Mrs. Silence Dogood letters were first printed in the New England Courant in 1722.
There is hope for all us writers!