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Henry Miller (1891-1980)

Henry Miller
Henry Miller in 1940

American writer Henry Miller is perhaps the most famous banned author in American history, known more for his inability to publish his works than for the works themselves. Born in New York City, the son of a tailor, he decided early in his life that he wanted to be almost anything but a tailor.

Once he embarked on his writing career, he led a tempestuous yet highly creative life. He developed both a strong idealism about romantic love coupled with an obsession with sex; these topics are central to several of his best-known works. Miller’s infamous Tropic of Cancer, which was published in Paris in 1934 and in the United States in 1961, was the focus of discussions of obscenity and censorship both inside and outside the courts. Tropic of Cancer was a semi-autobiographical account of Miller’s life in Paris from the fall of 1931 to 1932. During this period, he and June (the second of his five wives) became involved in a love triangle with the writer Anais Nin. Miller’s more-debated works were sexual in content, and some were deemed pornographic by standards of the day.

After spending the 1930s in Europe, he returned to the United States in 1940 and spent many years in California. Miller’s other notable works include Black SpringThe Colossus of MaroussiTropic of CapricornThe Rosy Crucifixion trilogyThe Books in My Life, and The Cosmological Eye.

In his later years he took up painting and became a water colorist of some note. He died in Pacific Palisades, California in 1980. 

Our Rare Book Collection has more than 250 volumes by Henry Miller. We invite you to visit Archives and Special Collections to consult works by Miller, or other parts of our collection. In addition, the Libraries have nearly 250 volumes of works about Miller such as biographies and critical interpretations.


Picture credit: Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.