Saturday, January 17, 2015


There was a boy in the early 18th century who was a bit of a precocious writer. As a 16-year-old, he attempted to write for The New-England Courant, one of the first newspapers in the American colonies. The Courant had been founded by his older brother, who rebuffed his younger sibling’s attempts at publication. So the teenager adopted an alias. Under the name Silence Dogood, ostensibly a middle-aged widow, he wrote a series of well-received, tongue-in-cheek letters to the newspaper—essays, really. It was his first taste of some measure of fame, albeit under a pseudonym.

A quarter-century later, by which time he had become a famous author, he hoped to draw attention to the injustice of blaming women only when children were born out of wedlock (something with which he was well familiar). So he dressed in female literary garb once more, publishing “The Speech of Polly Baker” in an issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine. He also wrote letters to The American Weekly under the names Caelia Shortface and Martha Careful, as well as a gossip column under the name Alice Addertongue.

So what was his real name? Benjamin Franklin. January 17th is his birthday. Happy birthday, Silence Dogood.

Ben Franklin was not the last famous writer to opt for a literary disguise, of course. Either they later became famous using their real names or they were already famous before adopting a pseudonym. 

Here’s a list of two-dozen-plus-one and their less-famous pen names: 

1. Ben Franklin (Silence Dogood, Polly Baker, Alice Addertongue, Caelia Shortface, and Martha Careful)

2. Charles Dickens (Boz)

3. Stephen King (Richard Bachman)

4. J.K. Rowling (Robert Galbraith, Newt Scamander and Kennilworthy Whisp)

5. Agatha Christie (Maty Westmacott)

6. Ray Bradbury (Douglas Spaulding)

7. Anton Chekhov (Antosha Chekhonte)

8. Vladimir Nabokov (Vladimir Sirin)

9. L. Frank Baum (Edith Van Dyne)

10. Louisa May Alcott (A.M. Barnard)

11. Isaac Asimov (Paul French)

12. Nora Roberts (J.D. Robb)

13. Michael Chrichton (John Lange)

14. C.S. Lewis (Clive Hamilton and N.W. Clerk)

15. Dean Koontz (Richard Paige, John Hill, Brian Coffey, David Axton, Anthony North, Owen West, Aaron Wolfe, K.R. Dwyer and Deanna Dwyer)

16. William S. Burroughs (William Lee)

17. Washington Irving (Jonathan Oldstyle, Diedrich Knickerbocker and Geoffrey Crayon)

18. Charlotte Bronte (Currer Bell)

19. Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell)

20. Anne Bronte (Acton Bell)

21. Gore Vidal (Edgar Box)

22. John Hughes (Edmond Dantes)

23. Harry Turtledove (H.N. Turtletaub)

24. Ann Rule (Andy Stack)

25. Lawrence Block (William Ard, Ben Christopher, Lee Duncan, Chip Harrison, Paul Kavanagh, Sheldon Lord, Andrew Shaw, B.L. Lawrence, John Warren Wells, Jill Emerson and Anne Campbell Clarke)

Of course, there’s another side of the coin—pen names that are household names. Sure, Anne Rice could have been placed on the above list. She wrote erotic novels under the names Anne Rampling and A.N. Roquelaure. But she’s on the list below because her real name wasn’t Anne Rice at all. She was born Howard Allen O’Brien.

Actually, when you read the list below, it might begin to stagger your sense of reality. Ayn Rand, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Woody Allen, Joseph Conrad, and Toni Morrison… all were fake names. Here a list of 38 such writers, everyone from Anne Rice to Ayn Rand to Ann Landers to Anonymous:

1. Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

2. Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss and Theo LeSieg)

3. Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)

4. George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair)

5. Ayn Rand (Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum)

6. George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

7. Joseph Conrad (Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski)

8. Woody Allen (Allen Stewart Konigsberg)

9. Toni Morrison (Chloe Anthony Wofford)

10. Daniel Defoe (Daniel Foe)

11. Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet)

12. Moliere (Jean Baptiste Poquelin)

13. O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)

14. Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler)

15. Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber)

16. Harold Robbins (Harold Rubin)

17. Anne Rice (Howard Allen O’Brien)

18. Erin Hunter (Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry and Victoria Holmes)

19. Ed McBain (Salvatore Lombino)

20. Ellery Queen (Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee)

21. C.S. Forester (Cecil Smith)

22. Gabriela Mistral (Lucila de MarĂ­a del Perpetuo Socorro Godoy Alcayaga)

23. Ann Landers (Eppie Lederer)

24. Sidney Sheldon (Sidney Schectel)

25. Sue Denim (Dav Pilkey)

26. Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney, Jr.)

27. James Tiptree (Alice Bradley Sheldon)

28. Bartholomew Gill (Mark C. McGarrity)

29. Diablo Cody (Brook Busey)

30. Miranda James (Dean James)

31. George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin)

32. Christopher Pike (Kevin Christopher McFadden)

33. Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

34. Robert O. Saber (Milton K. Ozaki)

35. Jean Barrett (Bob Rogers)

36. E.L. James (Erika Mitchell)

37. Anonymous (Joe Klein)

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