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An Inkwell of Pen Names by Stephen Smith

By Stephen Smith

An Inkwell of Pen Names tells the tales of a hundred authors' pen names in 100 brief chapters. Many different authors who used pen names are mentioned by the way. gains of the compendium contain pen names starting with each letter of the alphabet, authors from twenty-five nations, the recipients of the Nobel Prize for literature who used pseudonyms, and a balanced choice of women and men authors.

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Using John Sedges as her pseudonym enabled Pearl Buck to distance herself from the novels with an American setting and gave her the added benefit, from her point of view, of having a man’s name. There was another reason Pearl Buck began using a pen name. She was such a prolific writer that her publisher did not want bookstores flooded with a number of different books by Pearl Buck. For during the eight years she took on the mantle of John Sedges she also published novels, set in Asia, under her real name.

Charlotte Tucker used the initials A. L. O. E. (A Lady of England). Mary Abigail Dodge wrote under the name Gail Hamilton (which combines part of her middle name and Hamilton, Massachusetts, her birthplace. Robert H. Newell used Orpheus C. Kerr as his pseudonym (a play on the words “office seeker”). Louise de la Ramé chose Ouida (pronounced weeda) as her nom de plume because that was the way she said her own name as a child. Sydney Dobell wrote under the name Sydney Yendys (spelling his first name backwards).

After reading a favorable review of their book of poems in the Dublin University Magazine, Charlotte wrote to the editor. Sir,—I thank you in my own name and that of my brothers, Ellis and Acton, for the indulgent notice that appeared in your last number of our first humble efforts in literature. The book of poetry was published at the sisters’ own expense. Only two copies were sold. Early in their literary careers all of the sisters used a number of other pen names, some of them rather colorful.

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