So we know Melville’s great-great-great-granddaughter is making her own way as an author, if with slightly less sea salt (though definitely some sea salt), but let’s not forget about another of Melville’s descendants: Moby, born Richard Melville Hall. As he once explained, “The basis for Richard Melville Hall — and for Moby — is that supposedly Herman Melville was my great-great-great-granduncle.”
J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Dickens
Why are these two highly disparate authors going together, you ask? Why, because their descendants are currently working on a pair of books together — or at least collaborating enough that publishers can gleefully put their names together. According to the BBC, poet Michael Tolkien, eldest grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, is writing two children’s novels based on stories his grandfather told him as a child. Gerald Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles, will narrate the audiobook editions. That’s not all for the Dickens side, though — several of his descendants have become prolific authors in their own rights, including his great-grandaughter Monica Dickens, who wrote 30 novels and three children’s book series, and his great-great-great-grandaughter Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, an award-winning and bestselling non-fiction writer.
Big Papa spawned many a famous (and gorgeous) descendant — our favorite of course being Mariel, who played the 17-year-old Tracy in Woody Allen’s Manhattan. But of course, Mariel Hemingway now has two beautiful daughters of her own, the 22-year old Langley Fox Hemingway, and 24-year-old Dree Hemingway, both models. But very literary models, we expect.
You’d never guess Oscar Wilde’s only grandson from his name: Christopher Merlin Vyvyan Holland. Wilde’s wife, Constance, changed her surname to Holland after Wilde’s indecency trial and fall from grace, but unlike his grandmother, Christopher Holland isn’t ashamed of his connection to the great author — he is a prominent Wilde scholar and the co-editor of The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde. As for changing his name back? “I do think about it,” he told The New York Times in 1998. “But if I did it, it would have to be not just for Oscar, but for his father and mother, too, for the whole family. It was an extraordinary family before he came along, so if I put the family name back on the map for the right reasons, then it’s all right… It sounds mawkish, but maybe by writing a couple of books, and re-editing his letters, it will make me worthy of taking it back. I am one of them. I may not have done what Oscar did or his parents, but I’m still a Wilde.”
Though Austen died childless, she did have four apparently virile brothers, and thus multiple great (great great great) nieces and nephews are running around these days, squabbling over her equities. Our favorite Austen descendant, however, is not a squabbler, but an actress: the lovely Anna Chancellor, her eight-times great niece, who played Caroline Bingley in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, a casting just too perfect for words. Fun fact: Chancellor’s second cousin six times removed? Lord Byron. Girl’s got words in her blood.
John Cheever is widely considered to be one of the best writers of short stories that America has ever seen — but his children are doing their best to catch up. Benjamin Cheever has reported for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and multiple other publications. He’s also written four adult fiction novels, one children’s book, and two nonfiction books. His sister Susan is the author of five novels, three memoirs, and a biography, and teaches at both Bennington College and the New School. Not too shabby, kids.
In 2007, Alexander Waugh, grandson of Evelyn Waugh, wrote Fathers and Sons, a wonderful “autobiography” of his family, filled with anecdotes and stories tracing a literary tradition stretching back to author Arthur Waugh, Evelyn’s father, whose descendants have produced some 180 books between them. Alexander Waugh, who tried several different careers before succumbing to the fact that he had inherited a literary talent, closes the book with a letter to his own son, in which he stipulates that the Waugh name “is not a satchel of rocks, or a blotchy birthmark, or a tuxedo with medals for you to swank about in: Do not let it browbeat you into thinking you have to become a writer, that it is your destiny or your duty to do so. It isn’t. There is no point in writing unless you have something to say and are determined to say it well.” Indeed.
Dacre Stoker chose to continue his great-granduncle’s legacy in the most literal of ways: by penning an “official” sequel to Dracula, entitled Dracula: The Un-Dead , which Stoker the younger claimed was based on “excised portions of Bram Stoker’s original book, as well as his additional notes.” The sequel begins twenty-five years after Dracula “crumbled into dust” and follows the adventures of the surviving heroes of Stoker’s novel — sounds okay, but as far as we’re concerned, nothing can compare to the original.
The Tolstoy family — once known as the “wild Tolstoys” in the high society of Imperial Russia — has a long and storied history and has always been most famous for their literary leanings. Today, however, they seem to be all over the map: of the two youngest descendants, the socialite and horsewoman Countess Alexandra Tolstoy is a fixture in the UK gossip columns for her scandalous love life and another great-great-granddaughter, Viktoria Tolstoy, is a Swedish jazz singer.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Probably the most famous descendant of the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin is prolific crime writer Patricia Cornwell, who will release the 20th installment in her popular series of novels about a female medical examiner this year. So, she’s gone a little off topic from her literary roots, but we think we can manage to forgive her for that.