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Do great writers always come in pairs?

Updated on April 8, 2013

Hemingway and Fitzgerald

Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the "Lost Generation"

All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.... You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death. – Gertrude Stein

Both Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald served in WWI. After the war ended, the two novelists spent much of the twenties in Paris, where they both became friendly with Gertrude Stein. Hemingway and Fitzgerald were also known for excessive drinking, earning them a place in the Lost Generation; yet somehow each writer developed a literary voice that has stood the test of time, while many of their contemporaries have faded away into obscurity over the past century.

During the twenties both Hemingway and Fitzgerald spent much time in the "City of Lights". During this productive period, Hemingway wrote numerous short stories and published The Sun Also Rises, perhaps his finest novel. On the other hand, Fitzgerald visited Paris throughout the "Twenties" spending much time with Hemingway, when he was "across the pond". During this period F. Scott completed four novels, including his classic, The Great Gatsby. Also, Fitzgerald edited Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Unfortunately, Hemingway's and Fitzgerald's friendship turned sour in the next decade, proving that many literary friendships and alliances are very fleeting.

The Inklings

The Eagle and Child pub (also called the Bird)  in Oxford often hosted the Inklings,
The Eagle and Child pub (also called the Bird) in Oxford often hosted the Inklings, | Source

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

Just to disprove the notion that all great literature always comes from outside the mainstream, one needs to look no further than Oxford College during the 30s, 40s and 50s, where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were employed as English and Literature professors at the prestigious university. From beneath Britain's hallowed ivory towers, each writer created an impressive portfolio of stories and books that includes such luminous titles, as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Lewis's Narnia Chronicles.

Another of the duos more interesting collegiate activities was participation in the Inklings, a weekly literary reading and discussion group that often adjourned to a local pub after the formal meeting had finished. Both Tolkien and Lewis were an integral part of this group that met from the early 30s until the late 40s.


Lord Byron In Greece

Lord Byron on His Deathbed Painting by Joseph Denis Odevaere
Lord Byron on His Deathbed Painting by Joseph Denis Odevaere | Source

Lord Byron and P.B. Shelley

Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley were two very influential British poets and writers of the English Romantic tradition. They met on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland in the summer of 1816, but unfortunately, within eight years, both men would die tragically young in separate incidents along the Mediterranean far from the British Isles. Shelley would die in 1822 in a boating accident off the coast of Italy, while two years later, Byron would meet his end in Greece fighting the Turks. Yet within the few short years of their acquaintance, each poet would experience an unusually creative period that would forever influence the direction of English poetry.

In 1816 Byron and Shelley were perhaps the ultimate of "odd couples". Lord Byron arrived in Geneva with all the trappings of British royalty, including servants, footmen and a horse-drawn carriage that once belonged to Napoleon. On the other hand, Shelley came as a wandering troubadour, accompanied by his wife, Mary. Nonetheless, the two men rented houses in close proximity near the shores of the great lake and during the course of their "magical" stay, each writer created many verses. However, the greatest literary achievement of the summer, may have come from Mary Shelley, who penned the now classic horror story, Frankenstein,

Percy Bysse Shelley

Posthumous Portrait of Shelley Writing Prometheus Unbound, by Joseph Severn
Posthumous Portrait of Shelley Writing Prometheus Unbound, by Joseph Severn | Source

Truman Capote and Harper Lee

If you have ever seen the movie, "To Kill A Mockingbird", it is hard not to notice the adventures of the three kids, Jem, Scout and Dill. Jem and Scout are a brother and sister pair, who live in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, while Dill is a young boy and summer visitor, who spends a lot of time with Jem and Scout. In real life, Scout represents Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, and Dill is Truman Capote, who is also well-known for his literary achievements, especially In Cold Blood. The fact that these two influential 20th century American writers both developed deep friendships from a small town in Alabama is nothing short of extraordinary.

Harper Lee and Truman Capote

Harper Lee and Truman Capote have been best friends since childhood.
Harper Lee and Truman Capote have been best friends since childhood.


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