Justin Kaplan was born on September 5, 1925, in New York, New York, and died on March 2, 2014, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was an American author, biographer, and book publisher who is best known for his acclaimed literary biographies of Mark Twain, Lincoln Stephens, and Walt Whitman, as well as his sixteenth edition of Bartlett’s Quotations (1992).
Kaplan grew up in the city of New York. After getting his Bachelor of Science from Harvard University in 1945, he went to graduate school, but he dropped out in 1947 to work for different companies, including Simon & Shuster, where he became editor-in-chief. He has worked with authors like Bertrand Russell, Will Durant, Nikos Kazantzakis, and the philosopher C. Wright Mills in this role.
In 1959, Kaplan quit publishing to write his first book, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain, a biography of Mark Twain that won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1966. Kaplan started writing his history of Clemens when he was 31 instead of when he was young. Other biographers later did the same thing. In Lincoln Steffens: A Biography (1974), Kaplan tells the story of the famous writer and his illegitimate son in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Walt Whitman: A Life (1980) won a National Book Award and got a lot of attention.
Kaplan has taught at Harvard University and Emerson College in Boston. He is also a biographer-in-residence at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, at the Institute of Modern Biography. He put together a number of collections. As editor-in-chief of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (1992), he chose more modern quotes, such as one by Woody Allen: “It’s not that I’m scared of death. I just don’t want to be there when it does.”) and Kermit the Frog (“It’s not that easy to be green.”) and one goes to the classy actor Cary Grant (“Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. I wish I could be Cary Grant, too.”).