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Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter was uninterested “in anyone’s personal history after the tenth year,” she professed. “Whatever one was going to be was all prepared for before that. The rest is just confirmation, extension, development.” Porter had been born in 1890 in a log cabin, but told others it had been in 1894, two years after her mother’s death. She said that Daniel Boone was her great-great-great-granduncle. She was born Callie Russell and later adopted the…

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Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt “was a sickly, delicate boy, suffered much from asthma,” he later recalled, “and frequently had to be taken away on trips to find a place where I could breathe.” His mother, who thought he looked like a terrapin upon birth, feared her son might not live to the age of four. “I feel badly,” the toddler told her one morning. “I have toothache in my stomach.” King Edward VII and former British prime…

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Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s first article for Harper’s Magazine was misattributed to Mark Swain. The article, “Forty-three Days in an Open Boat” (December 1866), is an account of the Hornet, a clipper ship that caught fire in the open ocean, leaving its crew adrift for forty-three days. Twain referred to it as the “first magazine article I ever published,” though he had published numerous other pieces under such names as Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass; W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab;…

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David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace was a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine. Wallace’s work first appeared in the September 1989 issue of the magazine with the story “Everything Is Green,” from Girl with Curious Hair (1989). Five other short stories of his were published in the magazine: “The Awakening of My Interest in Annual Systems” (September 1993), an excerpt from the then-unfinished Infinite Jest (1996); “Rabbit Resurrected” (August 1992), a parody of John Updike’s “Rabbit” series; “The…

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Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton née Jones was born into the family that is believed to have inspired the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.” Her first memory was of a male cousin lifting her veil and kissing her, and at age nine she nearly died of typhoid while vacationing at a spa in the Black Forest; she recalled having been saved by “the physician of the Czar of Russia.” She wrote her first novel at eleven; it…

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E.B. (Elwyn Brooks) White

E. B. White wrote a monthly column for Harper’s Magazine called One Man’s Meat. It was about life among barnyard animals on his farm in coastal Maine, and ran from 1938 to 1943, when he retired it due to his “sketchy health.” In 1944 he saw a doctor about “mice in the subconscious,” and the following year he released his first children’s book, Stuart Little, about a mouse. “It must be a lot of fun…

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