Last week’s literary history brings us two literary birthdays and five literary deaths. Read more below about last week’s literary history.

August 2 — Author and Activist James Baldwin is Born

Author James Baldwin
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Author James Baldwin
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our first literary birth is that of American novelist and activist James Baldwin, who was born in Harlem, New York, on this day in 1924. Balwin is best known for his works Go Tell It on the Mountain and Notes of a Native Son, the latter of which is a collection of essays exploring racial, sexual, and class distinctions in 20th century America. Baldwin died in 1987.

August 3 — Author Joseph Conrad Dies

Author Joseph Conrad
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Author Joseph Conrad
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our first literary death is that of Polish-English author Joseph Conrad, who died on this day in 1924. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdychiv in 1857, Conrad did not speak the English language fluently until he was in his twenties, but is still regarded as one of the greatest novelists to write in the English language. Arguably his most notable work, his novel Heart of Darkness is still included in class curriculum across the globe.

August 4 — Danish Writer Hans Christian Andersen Dies

Statue of Hans Christian Andersen
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Statue of Hans Christian Andersen
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our second literary death is that of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, who died on this day in 1875. Best known for his fairytales, some of Andersen’s most famous works include “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Princess and the Pea,” and “The Ugly Duckling,” among many others.

August 5 — Novelist Toni Morrison Dies

Novelist Toni Morrison
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Novelist Toni Morrison
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our third literary death is that of American novelist Toni Morrison, who died on this day in 2019. Morrison was born in Lorrain, Ohio, in 1931 and wrote literary classics that include The Bluest Eye and Beloved. Morrison was the first black female editor in fiction at Random House in New York City in the late 1960s and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

August 6 — British Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson is Born

Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our second literary birth is that of British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who was born in Lincolnshire, England on this day in 1809. Tennyson was the Poet Laureate during a majority of Queen Victoria’s monarchy and continues to be one of the most popular poets in Britain. One of Tennyson’s most notable works is “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” a narrative poem about the Battle of Balaclava During the Crimean War. He died in 1892.

August 7 — British Novelist Nicholas Monsarrat Dies

Novelist Nicholas Monsarrat
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Novelist Nicholas Monsarrat
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Our fourth literary death is that of British novelist Nicholas Monsarrat, who died on this day in 1979. Best known for his novel The Cruel Sea, Monsarrat primarily wrote stories about the sea. Monsarrat served in World War II, achieving the status of Lieutenant Commander in 1943.

August 8 — Horror and Mystery Writer Shirley Jackson Dies

Writer Shirley Jackson's The Lottery
Photo courtesy of Penguin
Writer Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery
Photo courtesy of Penguin

Our fifth and final literary death is that of horror and mystery writer Shirley Jackson, who died on this day in 1965. Jackson is best known for her works The Lottery (above), The Bird’s Nest, and The Haunting of Hill House, the last being recently turned into the widely popular 2018 Netflix series of the same name.


Which day of Last Week in Literature did you find most interesting?