'Robert Galbraith' and the Story Behind 7 Other Famous Pen Names

With "The "Cuckoo's Calling," J.K. Rowling continued a longstanding literary tradition.

(Mona Boshnaq/AFP via Getty Images)

A man looks at the cover photo of the book 'The Cuckoo's Calling' by Robert Galbraith, a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling.

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Eric Blair/ George Orwell

Writer George Orwell, author of

Though George Orwell, née Eric Blair, signed his early works and reviews with his birth name or initials, he asked his publisher if "Down and Out in Paris and London" could be published under a pseudonym, "as I am not proud of it," he wrote. Scholars take this to mean that he both feared his book might be failure, and that he didn't want to harm his family's reputation with his "down and out" antics described in the book. The publisher suggested simply "X," but Blair wanted something better that he could use again "if this book doesn't flop as I anticipate." He suggested "George Orwell" among a few others. Orwell indeed continued to use the name for his future novels, but a few days before his death, requested to be buried under his birth name of Eric Blair.

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  • Corrected on : Corrected on 7/15/2013: A previous version of this article misspelled Lewis Carroll’s last name.