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E.B. White, Noted Writer, Dead at 86

Author of 'Charlotte's Web'


E.B. White, essayist, poet, and children's novelist, died of Alzheimer's disease yesterday at his home in Brooklin, Maine. He was 86 years old.

White was most famous for his popular children's book "Charlotte's Web," as well as for his witty essays in The New Yorker magazine. In 1959, he revised the grammar usage reference text, "The Elements of Style," originally written by his college mentor William Strunk Jr. and now commonly referred to as "Strunk and White."

Gurney Professor of English Literature Jerome Buckley called White "a quiet professional [who wrote with] eloquence and dignity...always informed [on any topic] from the gardens he and his wife liked so much, to observations on the quality of life, to the ethics of national behavior."

Born on July 11, 1899, White grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. The product of a typical middle-class childhood, he referred to himself in high school as a "writing fool."

While attending Cornell University, White was named editor-in-chief of the Cornell Daily Sun. After graduating with a B.A. in 1921, White roamed the U.S. for six months in a Model T Ford, and spent a year as a reporter for the Seattle Times before taking a job as a mess-boy on a trading ship in the Arctic.

White began his half-century affiliation with The New Yorker in 1925, contributing sketches, poems, and humorous essays like the "Go Climb a Tree Department." In 1929 he married Katharine Sergeant Angell, The New Yorker's first fiction editor.

White also published several books, including a satire of sex manuals called "Is Sex Necessary?," written in collaboration with James Thurber.

In his acceptance remarks for the National Medal for Literature (197 White noted, "I fell in love with the sound of an early typewriter and have been stuck with it ever since. I believed then, as I do now, in the goodness of the published word."

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