Pens and writing go together. In the days before gadgets, writers wrote with pens. Some, such as Daniel Defoe and Charles Dickens, made use of shorthand while others wrote longhand, but however they did it, it was with a writing instrument of some kind. We thought we'd do a bit of investigating into what some of the world's best-known authors used when penning their prose.
Parker pops up fairly often when it comes to creative writing. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the talent behind one of literature's most famous characters, the 'consultant detective' Sherlock Holmes, is said to have used a Duofold, as did Graham Greene, whose 'entertainments' (as he called his thrillers) include Brighton Rock and Our Man in Havana. The Duofold dates back to the 1920s, when it was regarded (and still is) as one of the most reliable and respected pens available. Dylan Thomas, whose play Under Milk Wood contains such delightful language as 'the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea', favoured a Parker 51, the 'pen from another planet' whose design was as unusual as Thomas's writing style.
The Conklin Crescent Filler was famously a favourite of Mark Twain, whose classic stories The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are still being read and studied the world over. Following the Crescent Filler's invention in 1897 he became the official spokesman for the brand. 'I prefer it...' he wrote, 'because it is a profanity saver; it cannot roll off the desk.'
Poet Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar and whose Collected Poems were posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1982, apparently used a Sheaffer, which was one of French writer and activist Simone de Beauvoir's pens of choice as well (the other being an Esterbrook).
Stephen King, prolific author of a string of novels of the horror cum supernatural genre, wrote Dreamcatcher with a Waterman Hemisphere, a slender fountain pen that sports discreet little features such as an angled cap end and tapered pocket clip. He said the act of writing longhand slowed him down and made him think about each word, rather than 'flying through' as he would with a word processor.
Bassano del Grappa, a city in northern Italy, is the home of luxury pen manufacturer Montegrappa. One of its most famed fans was Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize winning novelist Ernest Hemingway, who was stationed in the city during the First World War, where he was an ambulance driver.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is probably the most humbling and inspirational of all wartime literature. Anne was thought to have used a treasured Montblanc pen to write to 'Kitty', the name she gave her diary, and which she kept faithfully from 1942 to 1944 while hidden with her family in a secret annexe in Amsterdam.
Not all writers used such exalted pens, though. Jack Kerouac, best known for his novel On the Road, kept a stack of pocket notebooks about him (as you would guess) and made use of Bic ballpoints.
And not all writers used pens at all. Some used pencils, including John Steinbeck, the 'giant of American letters' and author of such classics as The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. He favoured Blackwing pencils, and would sharpen 24 of them before beginning his day's writing, using each one until it was blunt, and would then repeat the process.
Roald Dahl was also a pencil user. Ensconced in his Writing Hut in the back garden (which was inspired by Dylan Thomas's set up), with a board across the arms of his chair and a supply of 6 pencils, he wrote of giant peaches and growing grandmas, BFGs and Vermicious Knids, and inspired a whole generation not just to pick up a book, but to write as well.
19 July 2021