Sheppard Lee is a novel published in 1836 and written by Robert Montgomery Bird. Bird was an American writer, who specialized in novels and plays, as well as a physician. Bird was born to a wealthy family in Delaware and taken in by his rich uncle, which was when he tried to improve his musical abilities into a career at New Castle Academy, but after his years there, he abandoned that dream and continued on to the University of Pennsylvania, where he started to write, learning from the great Latin, American, and English writers, especially from Elizabethan dramatists such as Shakespeare. Though Bird continued into medical school, he continued writing, and after one year of practicing as a physician, Bird quit medicine and went into a full time writing career.
Though Bird had published poems and short stories during his time as a physician, he started to more seriously write plays and other works after quitting his medical practice. He wrote a few highly successful plays at the beginning of his career, yet couldn’t make a profit off of them because of stingy business partners, and so Bird finally turned to writing novels.
Bird’s multiple novels are characterized by his artful incorporation of sometimes graphic but always tangible and accurate details and descriptions of historical events. Sheppard Lee is a one-of-a-kind novel that tells the unfortunate but humorous story of Sheppard Lee, who has a unique power. Lee finds that he is able to project his own soul into the bodies of dying people. While this doesn’t sound particularly attractive nor useful, Lee finds that he can take over their lives, the rest of their time on Earth. Through such experiences and ambitions, Sheppard Lee explores the themes of happiness, what it’s worth, and the struggles and difficulties that accompany it.