E.B. White

Writer E.B. White was a contributor to ‘The New Yorker,’ co-author of ‘The Elements of Style’ and author of ‘Charlotte’s Web.’


E.B. White was born in New York in 1899. In 1927, White joined The New Yorker magazine as writer and contributing editor—a position he would hold for the rest of his career. He wrote three books for children, including Stuart Little (1945) and Charlotte's Web (1952). In 1959 he revised The Elements of Style by the late William Strunk Jr., which became a standard style manual for writers. White, who earned a Pulitzer Prize special citation in 1978, passed away at his home in Maine in 1985.

Early Life and Career

Writer E.B. White was born on July 11, 1899, in Mount Vernon, New York. His parents named him Elwyn Brooks White, but he did not appreciate the name. "I never liked Elwyn. My mother just hung it on me because she'd run out of names," he told The New York Times in 1980. "I was her sixth child."

While attending Cornell University, White acquired the nickname "Andy," which he was known by for the rest of his life. In college, he served as the editor of the school's newspaper; after graduating in 1921, White pursued a career in journalism for several years. He worked for the United Press and the Seattle Times before eventually landing a position with The New Yorker magazine in 1927. For the rest of his career, he would work with this literary publication.

White also met his wife, Katharine, an editor and writer, at The New Yorker. The couple married in 1929.

Acclaimed Author

In addition to his work for The New Yorker, White took on a number of other literary projects. He and James Thurber penned the humorous 1929 book Is Sex Necessary? Or, Why You Feel the Way You Do. White also created classics of children's literature. His first children's book was published in 1945. Stuart Little related the delightful adventures of a mouse living with his human family in New York City.

By the end of the 1930s, White and his family were spending most of their time at their Maine farmhouse. One day, White spotted a spider spinning an egg sac in his barn in Maine. This encounter provided the inspiration for what is perhaps his most beloved work, Charlotte's Web (1952), about the friendship between a spider named Charlotte and Wilbur the pig.

Though White was becoming known for his work for children, he continued to write for adults as well. His literary classic Here Is New York, published as an essay in 1948 before being reprinted in book form the following year, is to many the quintessential depiction of the Big Apple experience. He also revised an earlier work by William Strunk Jr., coming out with his take on The Elements of Style in 1959. The advice contained in this well-known book helped to shape and inspire many future generations of writers.

White received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. He followed this accomplishment with his third classic work for young readers, The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). In 1971, White was awarded the National Medal for Literature.

Later Years

White wrote numerous poems and essays during his life; a collection of his essays came out in 1977. That same year, White's wife passed away. He was devastated by the loss.

On October 1, 1985, White died at his home in North Brooklin, Maine. He was 86 and, according to The New York Times, had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease. White was survived by his son, Joel; his stepchildren, Roger Angell and Nancy Stableford; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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