Famous Literary Friendships



The friendship between Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen fascinated me.  I got to thinking how many other literary giants were friends.  Amazingly enough, quite a few of them!

Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hemingway and Fitzgerald met for the first time in Paris, France in 1925. Fitzgerald had already published a few novels where Hemingway had not even published his first yet, but despite of feeelings of jealousy and competitveness the two became close friends. The two had a relationship of mutual respect; Fitzgerald even helped edit The Sun Also Rises. Their friendship strained in later years, partially due to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s marriage to Zelda. (Hemingway accused her of being a drain on Fitzgerald’s creative energy, she accused Hemingway of having homosexual feelings for her husband, that old story.) Despite what went wrong, the significance of their friendship is the stuff of literary legend.

Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens
The pair first met at Oxford University, but were later re-introduced thanks to Peter Ackroyd. Amis and Hitchens became incredibly close. (Hitchens described their friendship as “the most hetero sexual relationship that one young man could conceivably have with another”.) They remain friends to this day.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
Fantasy giants Lewis and Tolkien first met at Oxford University, where the two both belonged to a group of writers known as The Inklings. They had a very intimate friendship, Tolkien even playing a key role in converting Lewis to Christianity. That is not to say their friendship was perfect, however. They bickered over the quality of each other’s work, and they finally drifted apart when Lewis took up with an American widow. (Who pushed who away at this point is a matter of some debate.)

Truman Capote and Harper Lee
Capote and Lee were neighbors and friends from the time that they were young. They had a very reciprocal relationship; Capote helped edit and promote To Kill a Mockingbird and Lee helped Capote do research for In Cold Blood. She based the character of Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird on Capote and he based the character of Idabel in Other Voices, Other Rooms on Lee. Sadly they were not so close in Capote’s later years, partially due to his drug and alcohol abuse.

Allen Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara
The two were from different schools of poetry; Ginsberg being part of the Beat Generation and O’Hara being part of the New York School. Ginsberg’s poetry was often serious and gritty where O’Hara made heavy use of humor in his poetry. Despite their differences, the two became friends. Ginsberg even dedicated a poem or two to O’Hara, notably, “My Sad Self“.

Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde
Oscar’s mom, Lady Jane, was a poet who liked to keep literary company. Bram found himself in Lady Jane’s circle, and eventually met Florence Balcombe, who had previously been Lady Jane’s daughter-in-law to be. Yep, Florence was once engaged to Oscar Wilde. At least, by some accounts. Other accounts say they dated seriously and Oscar merely wanted to marry her. At any rate, Florence ended up marrying Bram Stoker instead. When Oscar heard she was engaged, he wrote her a letter and said that he was leaving Ireland and would never come back. He mostly stayed true to his word – he only came back twice for a brief visits.

Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson
Alcott really loved these two. Really loved them. Like Alcott, they were residents of Concord, Massachusetts, so she had friendships with both. She and Thoreau used to exchange ideas and he would play his flute for her. The Emerson infatuation may have started when Ralph Waldo gave her the book Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child, which involves a young girl in love with a horny old poet. You can see why Louisa may have been flattered and sort of started stalking him – she would leave flowers on his doorstep, write him love letters but never send them, and sit outside of his window and sing him songs in German. He was married and had a daughter just six years younger than Louisa and never returned her affections.

Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein
He met her in Paris as well, at the introduction of their mutual friend, writer Sherwood Anderson (Anderson also introduced Hemingway to Ezra Pound). She reminded him of his mother both physically and otherwise. He even openly used Gertrude to try to work out some of his issues with his mother. She ended up introducing him to bullfighting, Spain, and prose. He used her as his sounding board and would completely rewrite something at her suggestion. He even made her the Godmother of his first son, Jack.


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