Photographs of Famous Authors from The Commons on Flickr

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Flickr calls The Commons, its collaboration with the Library of Congress, “The world’s public photo collection.”  It is a large respository of copyright-free images that anyone can use.  I browsed around to see if any of my favorite authors showed up, and here are the results.

(I have featured the Commons on this blog once before, the weekend I saw two baseball games in seventeen hours–one in New York, one in Boston–but didn’t take any pictures.)

Ernest Hemingway in the 1940s.  I’ve had a bit to say about him.
Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.
A stereoscopic image of Charles Dickens, taken by none other than Mathew Brady.  Dickens was born on the day of the New Madrid earthquake, which destroyed New Madrid, Missouri and caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards.
Chaucer, Shakespeare, Yeats.  In that order.  I’ve taught “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” “The Second Coming,” “When You are Old,” and “Prayer for my Daughter.”  I should teach “Sailing to Byzantium,” too. It’s hard to turn away from the man, his poetry, or this photograph.
H. G. Wells looking dashing in 1890.  I loved The Time Machine when I was in eighth grade.  I was surprised that our teacher was allowed to let us read something so fun.
Zora Neal Hurston, circa 1940.
Betty Friedan
Louis Untermeyer, editor of my first favorite poetry anthology.
Upton Sinclair in 1914, also dashing.
Gertrude Stein.  
Helen Keller 
I don’t know how this photo of Alice Walker from 1990 made it into the Commons, but there it is.  It gives me a reason to include a link to her reading Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?”, which I show to all my students.  The fact that her speech is introduced by the late Howard Zinn only makes it that much more fantastic.
Victor Hugo.  I’m going to surmise that this photo was taken on or about May 22, 1885.   
Alfred, Lord Tennyson with his sons Hallan and Lionel.  Any photos involving Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, and/or children are just too creepy for me.  Shudder.
This is Rudyard Kipling addressing American troops on December 29, 1918.  If you think of Kipling as a chauvinistic, imperial, ethnocentric fascist, well, you might have a point. I mean, the guy did write “White Man’s Burden,” after all.  (Not to mention “Gunga Din,” and “The Jungle Book.”)  But, before you write him off, you have to hear the story of what happened to his son.
Rudyard Kipling pushed his son John Kipling to enlist in the army as soon as he was of age.  He was rejected three or four different times because his eyesight was so poor.  (This was in 1915, mind you, at the start of the first World War, when the armies were sending any warm body in to fight.)  It seems that Rudyard pulled a few strings to have his son accepted into the Irish Guards.  John Kipling was sent to the Battle of Loos in 1915, where he was killed on his first day of action.  He was 18 years old.
After that, Kipling wrote:
If any ask why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
Kipling may have been an imperialist and everything else, but he paid the price for it.
These are the “Llanrst Poets” of 1876. All I know about Llarnst is that it is in Wales.  I don’t know anyone in the photo, but I would not be surprised to learn Richard Griffith was one of the lads in the shot.  The picture, though, it just too wonderful to pass up.  
Great job, Flickr.

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