Other Literary Forms

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Though best remembered for two children’s books, Charlotte’s Web (1952) and Stuart Little (1945), E. B. White was noted during his lifetime for humorous essays and light poetry. His phenomenally successful revision and expansion of William Strunk’s textbook The Elements of Style (1959) is a publishing legend. In 1981, a miscellany, Poems and Sketches of E. B. White, was published.

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Achievements

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E. B. White received numerous awards and honorary doctorates. He was awarded the National Institute of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Essays and Criticism in 1960, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the National Institute of Arts and Letters National Medal for Literature in 1971, and a Pulitzer Prize special citation in 1978.

Bibliography

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Angell, Roger. “The Making of E. B. White.” The New York Times Book Review (August 3, 1997): 27. White’s stepson Angell, an editor and writer for The New Yorker, describes life on the Maine farm, White’s need for independence and privacy, his Thoreauvian love of nature and respect for honest manual labor. In spite of withdrawing from New York City, White kept informed and concerned about world events.

Elledge, Scott. E. B. White: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton, 1984. This first full-length biography describes White’s childhood, his years at Cornell, his struggle to find himself as a writer, his friendships with humorist James Thurber and New Yorker editor Harold Ross, his half-century marriage to Katharine Angell White and analyzes the relationship between his life and his writings.

Roback, Diane, and Jason Britton, eds. “All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books.” Publishers Weekly, December 17, 2001, 1-25. Among paperback books as of 2001, Charlotte’s Web ranked number 1; Stuart Little, 53; and Trumpet of the Swan, 83.

Root, Robert L., Jr., ed. Critical Essays on E. B. White. C. K. Hall, 1994. Varying perspectives by prominent authors who are easy to read and worth knowing, including Diana Trilling, Joseph Wood Krutch, Irwin Edman, Malcolm Cowley, James Thurber, Clifton Fadiman, and John Updike. Contains discussions of “The Door,” “The Second Tree from the Corner,” and other stories.

Root, Robert L., Jr. E. B. White: The Emergence of an Essayist. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999. Analyzes the “four fairly pronounced periods” in White’s literary career, his painstaking method of writing and revising, and the influence of Henry David Thoreau, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, and others. Focuses on White’s dedication to his craft and developing technique as a prose stylist, with minimal attention to his personal life.

Sampson, Edward C. E. B. White. Twayne’s United States Authors series. New York: Twayne, 1974. This early study contains a wealth of valuable information in compressed form, including a chronology, a literary biography, an appraisal of White’s significance, references, and selected bibliography.

Updike, John. “MAGNUM OPUS: At E. B. White’s Centennial, Charlotte Spins On.” The New Yorker 75 (July 12, 1999): 74-78. Updike, noted for his sensitive short stories, was strongly influenced by White’s standards while working under him at The New Yorker early in his career. In this tribute, Updike recounts personal memories and analyzes Charlotte’s Web as White’s “disguised autobiography.”

“White, Elwyn Brooks.” In Something About the Author. Vol. 100. Detroit: Gale, 1999. White states that he always wrote for himself, not an audience.

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Critical Essays