Early June Birthdays

June has many literary birthdays; in just the first few days of the month, NYRB celebrates the lives and works of three very different authors.

We start off the month with John Masefield, who was born June 1, 1878. Masefield served in the British Navy, but deserted ship, swearing “to be a writer, come what might.” This dream became reality, and two of his children’s books—The Midnight Folk and The Box of Delights, both of which chronicle the adventures of the plucky orphan boy Kay Harker—are published by The New York Review Children’s Collection.

June 1 is also the birthday of Dante Alighieri, born in Florence in 1265. NYRB Classics publishes three titles by or about the great poet: The New Life, translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Ciaran Carson’s translation of The Inferno of Dante Alighieri; and Erich Auerbach’s Dante: Poet of the Secular World, a brilliant and provocative examination of the works of today’s birthday boy.

June 5 marks the birthday of Ivy Compton-Burnett (1892-1969), who wrote over fifteen novels about the upper classes of the late Victorian period. The novels are constructed almost entirely of seemingly banal dialogue that eventually reveals, beneath its surface, the truths of human nature and profound insights into human relationships. Among her works, NYRB Classics publishes A House and Its Head and Manservant and Maidservant.

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