0845 – Sugawara no Michizane, Japanese Kanshi poet, writer, and diplomat who is today revered in Shinto as the god of learning, Tenman-Tenjin.
1779 – Francis Scott Key, American lawyer and poet who authored the lyrics to the national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”
1815 – Richard Henry Dana, Jr., American lawyer and politician, and author of the classic memoir Two Years Before the Mast.
1819 – Herman Melville, novelist, poet, and short-story writer who is considered a key figure in American literature; he is best known for his masterpeice Moby Dick, but with his books Omoo, Typee, and Mardi, he is one of the authors whose works appear most often in crossword puzzles.
1881 – Rose Macauley (Dame Emilie Rose Macaulay), English writer, most noted for her award-winning novel The Towers of Trebizond, about a small Anglo-Catholic group crossing Turkey by camel; the story is seen as a spiritual autobiography, reflecting her own changing and conflicting beliefs. Her novels were partly influenced by Virginia Woolf; she also wrote biographies and travelogues.
1903 – Paul Horgan, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American author of fiction and nonfiction, much of it having to do with the American southwest.
1904- Vivien Greene (nee Dayrell-Browning), Rhodesian-born British writer who was the world’s foremost expert on dollhouses and who married novelist Graham Greene.
1916 – Anne Hébert, French-Canadian novelist, poet, playwright, and short-story writer, noted for her examination of the Québécois.
1919 – Stanley Middleton, Booker Prize-winning British novelist, best known for his novel Holiday.
1939 – Robert James Waller, American author and photographer who achieved fame with his book The Bridges of Madison County.
1947 – Lorna Goodison, Jamaican poet, short-story writer, memoirist, visual artist, and professor who is a leading West Indian writer of the generation born after World War II and is Poet Laureate of Jamaica; her work explores Jamaican culture, issues of home and exile, and the power of art to reconcile opposites and contradictions in the Caribbean historical experience.
1948 – David Gemmell, British author of heroic fantasy, best known for his debut novel Legend, the first in the Drenai saga.
1954 – James Gleick, American science writer whose books have been Pulitzer and National Book Award finalists.
1952 – Amy Friedman, American/Canadian novelist, memorist, journalist, editor, and teacher.
1966 – James St. James, American novelist whose book Disco Bloodbath (now published under the title Party Monster) that chronicles the Manhattan club scene in the 1980s and 1990s and centers around a murder committed by a friend of his; St. James was notorious for a lifestyle of excess that included drug use, partying, and bizarre costumes.
1957 – Madison Smartt Bell, award-winning American novelist, nonfiction author, short-story writer, and professor.