Hugh Lofting

Hugh John Lofting (Maidenhead, Berkshire, England January 14, 1886 - Topanga, California September 26, 1947) was a British author, trained as a civil engineer, who created the character of Doctor Dolittle - one of the classics of Children's literature. Like Alice in Wonderland and Winnie-the-Pooh, Hugh Lofting's doctor from Puddleby-in-the-Marsh who could speak to animals, first saw light in the author's illustrated letters to children, written from the trenches during World War I when actual news, he later said, was either too horrible or too dull. The stories are set in early Victorian England.

After serving in World War I, in which he was seriously wounded, he and his family moved to Connecticut, U.S. He was married happily, three times.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle: being the history of his peculiar life at home and astonishing adventures in foreign parts (1920) began the series. The sequel The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922) won the prestigious Newbery Medal. The next three, Doctor Dolittle's Post Office, (1923), Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924) and Doctor Dolittle's Caravan (1926) are all actually prequels. Seven more followed, and after his death two more volumes, composed of short unpublished pieces, appeared.

Doctor Dolittle had a few close human friends, including Matthew Mugg, the Cat's-Meat Man. The animal team consisted of Polynesia, Gub-Gub, Jip, Dab-Dab, Chee-Chee, Too-Too, and the Pushmi-Pullyu, with a head on each end. "For years it was a constant source of shock to me to find my writings amongst 'Juveniles,'" Lofting reported. "It does not bother me any more now, but I still feel there should be a category of 'Seniles' to offset the epithet."

The first story inspired an early silent animation by Lotte Reiniger in 1922. The Doctor Dolittle series went on to further animation for film and TV, a radio serial, a movie musical with Rex Harrison (1967), a stage show, and even (in "updated" form) cinematic vehicles for Eddie Murphy (1998 and 2001).

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