A regular monthly feature by Elaine Henderson featuring noteworthy authors born in this month.
Who? Harriet (Elizabeth) Beecher Stowe, American author, activist, philanthropist
When? 14 June 1811
Where? Litchfield, Connecticut, USA
Why should I read her work? Her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin played a seminal role in the American anti-slavery movement.
Try: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, (1852)
Interesting fact: Beecher Stowe died in 1885; her epitaph reads: Her Children Rise Up and Call Her Blessed.
Who? Dorothy L(eigh) Sayers, English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, translator and Christian humanist
When? 13 June 1893
Where? Headmaster’s House, Christ Church Cathedral School, Oxford
Why should I read her work? Sayers’s creation, Lord Peter Wimsey, is the original, archetypal gentleman detective, as popular today as he was when he first appeared in 1921.
Try: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928), Strong Poison (1931), Gaudy Night (1935), Busman’s Honeymoon (1937)
Interesting fact: Sayers worked for several years as an advertising copywriter and is credited with creating the slogans ‘Guinness is Good for You’ and ‘It pays to advertise’.
Who? Barbara (Mary Crampton) Pym, English novelist
When? 2 June 1913
Where? Oswestry, Shropshire
Why should I read her work?Her sharply observed, frequently ironic, middle class social comedies blend both humour and compassion.
Try: Excellent Women (1952), A Glass of Blessings (1958), Quartet in Autumn (1977), The Sweet Dove Died (1978)
Interesting fact: In 1946, Pym joined the Africa Institute as editor of the journal Africa and, like the anthropologists she worked with, Pym herself became an astute observer of human nature.
Who? Thomas Hardy, English novelist and poet
When? 2 June 1840
Where? Higher Bockhampton, Dorset
Why should I read his work? Hardy is the great novelist of the Victorian English countryside, charting the effects of social and economic change and the vicissitudes of rural life through his deeply sympathetic portrayals of working class characters.
Try: Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), The Return of the Native (1878), The Trumpet-Major (1880), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), The Woodlanders (1887)
Interesting fact: Hardy’s early ambitions were to go to university and become an Anglican priest; lack of money prevented this and he later worked in an architect’s office before unsuccessfully trying to become a poet and only later turning to prose.
Who? W(illiam) B(utler) Yeats, Irish nationalist and poet
When? 13 June 1865
Where? Sandymount, Co. Dublin
Why should I read his work? Yeats is one of the greatest literary figures of the 20th century and his work has had a profound and lasting influence on Irish culture and identity.
Try: The Green Helmet (1910), Responsibilities (1914), The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair (1933), New Poems (1938)
Interesting fact: The citation for the Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Yeats in 1923 states: ‘for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation’.
Who? George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), English novelist, essayist and critic
When? 25 June 1903
Where? Motihari, Bengal, India
Why should I read his work?Orwell created the most trenchant and enduring satirical fiction of the 20th century.
Try: Animal Farm (1945), Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
Interesting fact: The proposed statue of Orwell outside the BBC offices in London will carry the words: ‘If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’.