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E B White quote | by Kathleen Tyler Conklin
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E B White quote

E. B. White: A Shy Man Fond of Creatures

This article was written by Deborah Straw



Like many other famous writers, E.B. White (1899-1985) was a shy man. He avoided most parties and public appearances. He didn't want people to find him or his home in North Brooklin, Maine. In his latter days, he stopped giving interviews. In 1977, he convinced the reporter Herbert Mitgang to write, "To discourage visitors, we hereby report that he lives in 'a New England coastal town,' somewhere between Nova Scotia and Cuba." If White wanted people to find him, he would graciously invite them to do so. He wanted people to read his work and appreciate it for what it was: a humorous and insightful collection of essays, poems, and children's books that continue to touch generations of readers. Otherwise, he would have advised, please, leave this quiet, humble man alone to create in relative solitude.


Solitude, that is, if you're not counting the animals and birds he and his wife Katharine lived with on their small farm. Aside from the ever-present dog, often a dachshund like the infamous Fred, White generally shared his home with sheep, chickens, a pig, and a cat. And, oh yes, all those spiders. All descendants of Charlotte, of course. And yes, the barn on this property was where this great adventure took place, or at least the incident on which White based Charlotte's Web. White would not have wanted anyone just dropping by. If a reader receives an urge to visit the scene of the stories, he may rather you sit down with Charlotte's Web or with the cassette tape of White reading it. Incidentally, it took White several tries to read it for the recording, because he kept getting choked up when he came to the crucial parts of the story. You know which parts I mean.


Although E B. White was born in Mount Vernon, New York, he lived in two very disparate places as an adult: Manhattan and tiny North Brooklin, Maine. The latter isn't even on a general map. White loved New York and North Brooklin, but in his heart, he was more a New Englander than a New Yorker. He and Katherine also spent several winters in Florida, especially as they aged and Katherine's various ailments required a warmer, sunnier climate in the winter. But the place where he felt most comfortable was undeniably his beautiful white house and acreage in Maine with all of the critters under foot. He had a large barn and small boathouse there that became his studio, where he sat at a small table and used a manual typewriter to write his many drafts

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Taken on February 28, 2007