Long, John Luther, 1861-1927

Alternative names
Birth 1861-01-01
Death 1927-10-31

Biographical notes:

American author, dramatist.

From the description of Papers of John Luther Long [manuscript], n.d. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647814368

American lawyer and writer of short stories, plays and poetry. Author of Madame Butterfly, produced by David Belasco and adapted into the opera by Giacomo Puccini.

From the description of Papers, 1870-1958 (bulk 1901-1920). (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122494176

John Luther Long was born in Hanover, Pennsylvania, in 1861. He was admitted to the bar in Philadelphia on October 29, 1881, and became a practicing lawyer. Though his profession was law, he enjoyed literature and throughout his life, he wrote many short stories, plays, poetry, and a few librettos.

On January 17, 1882, he married Mary Jane Sprenkle. The first year of their marriage, Long kept a diary primarily focusing on his work as a lawyer, though he does disclose more personal information here than in most of his correspondence. Bayard, their only child, was born by the summer of 1886.

Mr. Long spent most summer months writing at Spray Beach, New Jersey, going into the city only when necessary. By 1895, his efforts paid off with his first published work, Miss Cherry Blossom of Tokyo . Fascinated with Japanese culture, he wrote several stories set to this theme. According to the Dictionary of American Biography IV, ...he had never been in Japan. His story and atmosphere were based on the observations of his sister, Mrs. Irwin Correll, the wife of a missionary. The details were carefully verified from her experience. Unfortunately, very little of her correspondence exists in this collection.

Over one hundred stories and plays are represented in the collection, and some illustrate Long's own interpretation of himself as a sentimentalist, and a feminist and proud of it ( New York Times, November 1, 1927). Much of his writing focuses on romantic relationships between men and women. This theme pervades his writing whether the story is set in America or the Orient. The most famous of his oriental stories was Madame Butterfly David Belasco worked with Mr. Long to produce a very elaborate play from this story. This was the impetus of Long's career as a writer. He worked on several other projects with Belasco, including The Darling of the Gods and Andrea . He also worked with other writers, as well as with actresses Leslie Carter ( Kassa ) and Minnie Maddern Fiske ( Dolice ). None of Long's writings had the success of Madame Butterfly, which was first produced by David Belasco at the Herald Square Theatre in New York on March 5, 1900. Giacomo Puccini was inspired by this production and chose it for the libretto of his popular opera Madame Butterfly, which premiered in English in New York on November 12, 1906.

Mr. Long chose not to allow the media or public responses of his work to interfere with his desire for a quiet private life. He spent the last two months of his life at a sanatorium in Clifton Springs, New York. He died on October 31, 1927, following an operation.

From the guide to the John Luther Long Papers TXRC92-A9., 1870-1958, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)


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Ark ID:


  • Short stories, American--New England
  • American fiction--20th century
  • Authors, American--New England
  • Authors, American
  • Short stories, American
  • Drama
  • Botanists--Correspondence
  • Playwriting


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  • New England (as recorded)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.) (as recorded)