Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, and other fake names the best writers used to succeed

There are many reasons why authors decide to publish their work with a fake name or a pseudonym.

Putting everything into a book can be quite therapeutic, but sometimes it is counterproductive for the writer, who leads a double life. Some writers have other professions and when they are related to their literary work they can face serious problems. Others prefer to use another name to get away from fame and try to succeed a second time because of their literary quality and not because of the weight of their name.

There are many reasons why writers prefer to use an alias but what it’s true is that these names got stuck in our collective imagination as the greatest classic writers in history.


Mark Twain: Samuel Langhorne Clemens

Mark Twain has become a very well-known name since he’s considered one of the pillars of American Literature. However, the name we should all be praising is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a regular man who used to work on steamboats on the Mississippi River. This is crucial because it was this job that gave him the name that would turn him into an icon. Turns out, that Mark Twain is a code name to alert the crew of the boats whenever the water passed the 12-feet mark of safety. Samuel Langhorne Clemens thought it was a funny name and quite appropriate to his humorous short pieces, and eventually, the name stuck.

Maya Angelou: Marguerite Annie Johnson

The multi-awarded author and activist had to become creative when choosing her pen name. Not because she didn’t like her legal name Marguerite Annie Johnson, but because the editorials thought she needed something more recognizable and easy to remember. Marguerite decided to use the nickname she was given as a little girl, “Maya,” and spice up his former husband’s last name Angelos.


Pablo Neruda: Ricardo Neftalí Reyes Basoalto

Who doesn’t know Pablo Neruda and his romantic yet deep poetry? Well, the name Pablo Neruda, as normal as it would sound to many Spanish-speaking folks, isn’t a real name. His real name was Ricardo Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, and when he was only 13 years old, he decided he was going to become a great author. However, his family didn’t want him to become a writer fearing he would starve to death, so he started writing under the pseudonym of Pablo Neruda so his father wouldn’t find out. As a renowned author, he was asked where Pablo Neruda came from, but he always said he couldn’t remember.

Lewis Carroll: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson

The controversial author of the classic Alice in Wonderland and Thorugh the Looking Glass was a very (VERY) private person. The also mathematician and poet, who decided to come up with a fake name to keep his life private while still working at the university. His obsession with concealing his real name was so big that he would even dispose immediately of letters sent to the name “Lewis Carroll.”


George Orwell: Eric Arthur Blair

George Orwell is a pretty much strong name that goes perfectly with such a strong and dark utopic fiction like 1984. Certainly, Eric Arthur Blair didn’t sound that iconic and memorable so he decided to change it. According to the story, the name comes from the River Orwell and he went for George because it sounded very British. Another version is that Eric Arthur Blair was very much scared of failing as an author, so he decided to create a fake identity in case it happened.

George Eliot: Mary Anne Evans

Well, this one comes as no surprise at all. Historically, female authors have been pushed to come up with a male alias to be able to publish (let aside succeed). Mary Anne Evans was well aware of the misogyny in which the literary world worked, so wanting to be taken seriously decided to come up with the name George Eliot. Another reason for her decision was that she didn’t want her private life to be exposed so making people believe her work had been written by a man kept her privacy safe.


Lemony Snicket: Daniel Handler

This isn’t really a surprise either because it’s clear the name Lemony or Snicket isn’t real. But so that you know, the author of the classic A Series of Unfortunate Events is really named Daniel Handler. Handler wanted to play with the idea of character/author, so having a fake name or a pseudonym helped him create that fantasy we all love.

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