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La Farge, Oliver Hazard Perry (19 December 1901–02 August 1963), anthropologist, author, and advocate of American Indian reform and welfare, was born in New York City, the son of Christopher Grant La Farge, an architect, and Florence Bayard Lockwood. A descendant and namesake of ...

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Lin Yutang (10 October 1895–26 March 1976), novelist, linguist, and philosopher, was born Lin Ho-lok in Amoy, Fukien Province, China, the son of Lin Chi-shing, a Presbyterian minister, and Young Shun-min. At age seventeen, he changed his given name, meaning peaceful and happy, to Yutang, meaning elegant language, and came to be known as Lin Yutang. Lin attended English-language schools and graduated from St. John’s University, a private western-oriented institution in Shanghai, in 1916. In the same year he became a teacher at Tsing Hua College in Peking. In January 1919 he married Liu Tsui-fung, a wealthy classmate of his sister; eventually the union produced three children. In the fall of 1919 he embarked with his wife to study comparative literature at Harvard....

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Santayana, George (16 December 1863–26 September 1952), philosopher and writer, was born in Madrid, Spain, the son of Agustín Ruiz de Santayana, a Spanish diplomat, and Josefina Sturgis (formerly Josefina Borrás y Carbonell), the daughter of a Spanish diplomat. His mother had previously married a Boston merchant, George Sturgis, who died in 1857. Santayana was christened Jorge Agustín Nicolás, but his half sister Susana insisted that his name not be the Spanish Jorge, but George, after her father. A permanent resident of Spain only during 1863–1872, he retained his Spanish citizenship throughout his life and frequently returned to visit family and to write....

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Spalding, Henry Stanislaus (10 January 1865–27 December 1934), educator, author, and clergyman, was born in Bardstown, Kentucky, one of eleven children of William Thomas Spalding and Isabella Ann Livers Spalding, founders and operators of a clothing business. The Spaldings were descendants of Thomas Spalding, who landed in St. Mary's County, Maryland, in 1657/58 and the family had migrated to Nelson County, Kentucky, after the Revolutionary War. Two of Henry Spalding's cousins, ...

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Stegner, Wallace Earle (18 February 1909–13 April 1993), author and educator, was born in Lake Mills, Iowa, the son of George Stegner, a drifting, gambling worker, and Hilda Paulson. The itinerant family lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota, then Redmond and Bellingham, Washington, then East End, Saskatchewan, Canada, and then Great Falls, Montana, before settling in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1921. After graduating from high school there, Stegner attended the University of Utah, where during his freshman year his contact with western writer-teacher ...

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Taylor, Bayard (11 January 1825–19 December 1878), writer, was born in Kennett Square, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Taylor and Rebecca Way, farmers. He was raised in an orderly Quaker household of quiet discipline, but, being a prodigious reader and student, he felt constrained by the provincial farming life of Chester County. His studies of languages and literature at Bolmar’s and Unionville academies only intensified his restlessness, and while still a high-school student Taylor published his first poem in 1841 with the ...

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Twain, Mark (30 November 1835–21 April 1910), author and lecturer, was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, the son of John Marshall Clemens, a lawyer, and Jane Lampton. Though he would intimate in good faith that his father descended from the gentry, his paternal grandparents were slave-owning farmers in Virginia, and his maternal grandparents in Kentucky, while better educated and more prosperous, were not wealthy. His father, having moved to Kentucky, was licensed to practice law in 1822. His parents moved in 1823 to Tennessee, where John Clemens accumulated a huge tract, perhaps as much as 75,000 acres, that would for decades figure in family councils as a potential fortune. He had minimal success as an attorney and speculator. In 1835 he embarked on various ventures in tiny Florida, Missouri, the home of John Adams Quarles, a capable farmer and storekeeper married to Jane Clemens’s younger sister....