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George William Curtis

George William Curtis was assigned Harper’s Magazine’s Easy Chair column in 1852, 1853, or 1854, while later also occupying Harper’s Weekly’s similarly minded Lounger column. He held this perch until his death in 1892—one of three to die while doing so. Curtis was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on February 24, 1824. A descendant of onetime enemy of the state John Curtis, he attended as a youth the newly formed Brook Farm, a utopian Transcendentalist…

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Bernard Augustine De Voto

Bernard DeVoto wrote the Easy Chair column for Harper’s Magazine from 1935 until his death in 1955. He was the fifth to commit to the oldest column in American journalism and the third to die while holding the position, but, according to Lewis H. Lapham, who would assume the Chair several decades on and rename it Notebook, it was DeVoto who “found the clearest expression of its purpose.” The Easy Chair—“a column always grotesquely misnamed,”…

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Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard sent an unsolicited manuscript to Harper’s Magazine in 1973; it was included in the August issue of that year under the heading “Monster in a Mason Jar: The lethal liturgy of the praying mantis,” which, along with two other Harper’s articles, would appear as chapters in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974). The book received the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction when Dillard was twenty-nine, and led one critic to call her “one of…

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Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich was a contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine from 1999 to 2012. Her best-selling book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001) originated as a piece of undercover reportage published in the January 1999 issue of the magazine, for which she received the Hillman Prize in 2000. In her introduction to the book, Ehrenreich recalls how, during a lunch with Harper’s editor Lewis H. Lapham, their conversation turned to the difficulty…

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William Faulkner

William Cuthbert Faulkner, né Falkner, was named after his great-grandfather William Clark Falkner, “The Old Colonel,” a Confederate veteran, the namesake of Falkner, Mississippi, and the author of The White Rose of Memphis (1881), a murder mystery set on a steamboat. But William Clark Falkner’s son, John Wesley Thompson Falkner, “The Young Colonel”—a lawyer about whom it was said, “If you want to kill somebody, kill him Saturday night, call Johnnie on Sunday, and he’ll…

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John Fischer

John Fischer, the editor in chief of Harper’s Magazine from 1953 to 1967, “made the magazine an instrument of rigorous social inquiry, publishing some of the best and most constructive political thought of his era,” according to Harper’s editor emeritus Lewis H. Lapham; “in his own writing he was constantly offering modest but useful suggestions about the ways in which people might improve their lot.” These suggestions were tallied in such Easy Chair columns as…

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