Birthday for July 3: Francis Steegmuller

Francis Steegmuller and his wife Shirley Hazzard. Image sourced from

Francis Steegmuller, a writer, biographer, and scholar of the works of Gustave Flaubert, was born on July 3, 1906 in New Haven, Connecticut.

Steegmuller was educated at Columbia University and was particularly prolific on the subjects of French authors and French culture. He wrote Flaubert and Madame Bovary in 1939, won a 1971 National Book Award for his work Cocteau: A Biography, about the life of Jean Cocteau, and received another National Book Award in 1981 for the first volume of his translation of Flaubert’s letters. His 1957 translation of Madame Bovary was noted for being particularly excellent.

He also wrote travel guides, and submitted short stories and articles to The New Yorker, in addition to writing books about Guy de Maupassant, Isadora Duncan, and the printmaker Jacques Villon.

The author also produced several crime novels under the pseudonym David Keith, such as A Matter of Iodine and The Blue Harpsichord. A biography titled Oh Rare Ben Jonson! was written under the name Byron Steele.

Steegmuller married his second wife, the Australian-American writer Shirley Hazzard, in 1963. In Steegmuller’s 1994 obituary in the New York Times, she is quoted as having affectionately described their marriage as being “an extended menage a trois with Flaubert.”

Special Collections houses the Francis Steegmuller letters collection, number 1992-001. These consist of 32 letters and postcards from Steegmuller to a publisher, relating to Steegmuller’s translation of Flaubert’s Novembre.

About Melissa Kunz

Melissa Kunz is a Special Collections Librarian. She holds a Masters in Library and Information Studies and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hendrix College in Arkansas.
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