Study Guide

E. B. White

E. B. White Biography

Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Elwyn Brooks White was a multifaceted writer. Although he has more than twenty volumes to his credit, his recognition is primarily for four types of literature: a style manual, fiction, poetry, and children’s literature.

White was born in Mount Vernon, New York, on July 11, 1899. His father manufactured pianos with a New York business. E. B. lived the pleasant suburban life. After serving in the Army as a private in 1918, White entered Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He wrote for The Cornell Daily Star. One of White’s professors was William Strunk, Jr. Strunk used his book The Elements of Style in the course. This book—with its grammar glossary, advice on pronoun uses, punctuation rules, and (later) suggestions for avoiding sexism—would prove significant to White.

After White graduated in 1921, he traveled and worked many jobs, including reporter for the United Press, the American Legion News Service, and the Seattle Times. He returned to New York in 1924 and worked as an advertising copywriter, a production assistant, and finally at the newly formed The New Yorker.

The first literary editor of The New Yorker was Katherine Sergeant Angell. In 1929 White and Angell married; they had three children. Their friends included Dorothy Parker, a short story writer, poet, theater critic, and screenwriter; Robert Benchley, a drama critic, actor, and humorist; Stephen Leacock, a modern language instructor, humorist, and chair of the Economics and Political Science Department at McGill University; and James Thurber, a cartoonist, children’s writer, and humorist. White worked with Thurber to produce Is Sex Necessary?, a spoof of the sex manuals of the day.

White worked with The New Yorker for eleven years. In addition to his editorial essays, he also wrote of the complexities of modern life, the failures of technology, war, the joys of both rural and urban life, and nature. His Ho-Hum and Another Ho-Hum were collections of essays. In The Wild Flag, White assembled some articles that had previously appeared in his New Yorker...

(The entire section is 893 words.)

E. B. White Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Elwyn Brooks White was born in Mount Vernon, New York, on July 11, 1899. He graduated from Cornell University, where he had discovered his love for literature and served as editor-in-chief of the Cornell Daily Sun. The most important event in his career was being hired by The New Yorker in 1926. He was largely responsible for shaping this famous magazine’s sophisticated tone with his prose and painstaking editing. At The New Yorker he met James Thurber, an important literary influence, and Katharine Sergeant Angell, his wife, collaborator, and inspiration until her death in 1977. Known to millions only as the author of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, White was one of America’s finest essayists. Thurber, himself a perfectionist, praised “those silver and crystal sentences which have a ring like the ring of nobody else’s sentences in the world.” One of White’s often quoted statements is: “The whole duty of a writer is to please and satisfy himself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one.” Fleeing the stress of New York City, this shy, retiring individualist spent much of his later life on a farm in Maine. He died on October 1, 1985.

E. B. White Biography (Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Born Elwyn Brooks White on July 11, 1899, to Jesse Hart White and Samuel T. White, E. B. White grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, a suburb of...

(The entire section is 289 words.)