Two Heads Are Better Than One: Famous Writing Friendships

by • August 01, 2014

There are times when writing seems to be a completely solitary craft. Sitting alone in a room to manipulate the words and sentences in a particular manuscript is hardly a social activity, right?

Maybe you’d be surprised to learn that the work of many great writers – whether they were poets or novelists, philosophers or essayists – actually came from a place of collaboration. In honor of July 30, International Friendship Day, let’s explore some of history’s most dynamic literary companionships.

friendship, writers, literary, Grammarly

Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen: At first, Dickens and Andersen shared a mutual admiration. Andersen, the author of numerous fairy tales, sang the praises of the creator of A Christmas Carol. The friendship degenerated quickly, though, when Andersen overstayed his welcome at the Dickens’ household. After he finally left, Dickens refused to continue corresponding with Andersen, who never understood why.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau: The two fathers of transcendentalism shared a deep friendship. They were also friendly with literary greats such as Samuel Coleridge, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Wordsworth. The older Emerson guided Thoreau’s writing, and considered Thoreau to be his “best friend,” despite some ideological disagreements. When Thoreau died of tuberculosis, Emerson spoke at his funeral.

Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker: Stoker, the author of Dracula, met Wilde in a rather funny bit of circumstance. Stoker moved in the same social circles as Wilde’s mother, the wealthy Lady Jane. Stoker courted Lady Jane’s friend, Florence, and eventually married her. Unfortunately, Florence was once the betrothed of Wilde, and he was not very pleased at her new engagement. Wilde stormed out of Ireland in a huff upon hearing the news, and rarely returned.

Mary Shelley and Lord Byron: The summer of the year 1816 was a strange one. The world suffered through the after-effects of a volcano that erupted in 1815. It was very cold in Europe, and the sun was a stranger. The English poet, Lord Byron, invited Mary Shelley to stay with him and some others at his house in Switzerland. For lack of anything better to do, Lord Byron began a game that involved the creation of new ghost stories. Byron’s friend, John Polidori, wrote a blood-curdling tale entitled The Vampyre. Mary’s response to Byron’s challenge was Frankenstein. The rest is history.

J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The two great Oxford Brits shared a literary and a spiritual relationship. Both were members of an informal writing group called the Inklings. Tolkien helped Lewis to refine his beliefs on Christianity and Lewis encouraged Tolkien to pursue his fiction. Despite surviving two terrible wars, however, their relationship did not weather the squabbles of later life.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway: The Roaring Twenties saw the rise of many literary greats, but the friendship of Hemingway and Fitzgerald is probably the most explosive. Both authors and infamous drinkers, the men tore through the city of Paris as expatriate icons. Hemingway was not a fan of Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, and the writers’ friendship suffered. Both men went on to tragic deaths, but their lives continue to be a subject of study.

Truman Capote and Harper Lee: Harper Lee and Capote were childhood friends who lived next door to each other. Their friendship later developed into a literary powerhouse, with two great novels birthed from their collaborations: To Kill a Mockingbird and In Cold Blood. Capote later sank into a terrible alcoholism, and Harper Lee never published another novel.

Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The two pioneering writers of the Beat Generation had a tumultuous relationship. The poet Ginsberg suffered an unrequited love for the rough and tumble Kerouac. Both traveled together, the “best minds” of their generation, producing writing that defined an age. Kerouac died young, leaving Ginsberg behind to be the spokesperson for the Beat Generation.

Despite some bumps in the road, friendships between grammarians and writers often lead to some amazing collaborations. Celebrate your friendships with fellow grammarians, and tell us about your favorite methods for working with other language-lovers.

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