|Covid-19|February 13 – The first issue of the feminist newspaper La Citoyenne is published by Hubertine Auclert in France.
March – Ambrose Bierce contributes to the weekly satirical San Francisco magazine The Wasp (becoming editor by July) and resumes his column "Prattle" and the series of cynical definitions which he first calls The Devil's Dictionary.
April – William Poel's production of Shakespeare's Hamlet at St. George's Hall, London, reverts to the first quarto text and avoids elaborate scene changes.
April 23 – Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience, a satire on Oscar Wilde and aestheticism, opens with George Grossmith in the lead at the Opera Comique in London.
July 7 – Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le avventure di Pinocchio), a children's story about a wooden puppet in Tuscany, begins serialization in the first issue of Giornale per i Bambini, a supplement to the Roman Sunday newspaper Fanfulla della domenica.
July 29 – Law on the Freedom of the Press passed in France.
August 17 – The Pushkin Prize is established by the Russian Academy of Sciences.
October 1 – Robert Louis Stevenson's children's pirate adventure novel Treasure Island begins serialization in the British magazine Young Folks as Treasure Island; or, The mutiny of the Hispaniola by "Captain George North".
The first of the three-volume History of Woman Suffrage, is published by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the United States.
Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy's historical drama Tsar Boris (Царь Борис, published 1870) receives its première, posthumously, at Anna Brenko's Pushkin Theater in Moscow.
The literary review and movement La Jeune Belgique is founded by poet Max Waller (Léopold Warlomont).
The Pali Text Society is founded by British scholar Thomas William Rhys Davids for the study of Pali (Ceylonese) texts.
William Harrison Ainsworth – Stanley Brereton
Mary Elizabeth Braddon – Asphodel
Robert Buchanan – God and the Man
Bankim Chatterjee – Rajsimha
Wilkie Collins – The Black Robe
Machado de Assis – The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (Memorias Posthumas de Braz Cubas)
Antonio Fogazzaro – Malombra
Anatole France – Sylvestre Bonnard
Thomas Hardy – A Laodicean
Henry Honor (anonymously) – The Great Romance
Joris-Karl Huysmans – En Ménage
Robert G. Ingersoll – The Great Infidels
Henry James – The Portrait of a Lady
Margaret Oliphant – Harry Joscelyn
"Jack Saul" – The Sins of the Cities of the Plain
Joseph Henry Shorthouse – John Inglesant
Giovanni Verga – I Malavoglia (translated as The House by the Medlar-Tree)
Jules Verne – Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
Joel Chandler Harris – Uncle Remus
Talbot Baines Reed – The Fifth Form at St. Dominic's
Mrs. Humphry Ward – Milly and Olly
Henrik Ibsen – Ghosts (Gengangere) (published)
William Young – Pendragon
Roden Noël – A Little Child's Monument
Jefferson Davis – The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government
Warren Felt Evans – The Divine Law of Cure
Hermann Schultz – Die Lehre von der Gottheit Christi (The Lesson of Christ's Divinity)
Alfred Percy Sinnett – The Occult World
Lascelles Abercrombie, English poet and literary critic (died 1938)
Giovanni Papini, Italian writer (died 1956)
January 18 – Gaston Gallimard, French publisher (died 1975)
February 10 – Boris Zaytsev, Russian novelist and dramatist (died 1972)
February 13 – Eleanor Farjeon, English children's writer and poet (died 1965)
March 14 – Eugeniu Ștefănescu-Est, Romanian poet, novelist and cartoonist (died 1980)
March 17 – Kristian Elster, Norwegian novelist, literary historian and biographer (born 1841)
March 25 – Mary Webb, English novelist (died 1927)
May 13 – Lima Barreto, Brazilian novelist and journalist (died 1922)
July 22 – Margery Williams, English-born American children's writer (died 1944)
August 1 – Rose Macaulay, English novelist, biographer and travel writer (died 1958)
August 10 – Witter Bynner, American poet and scholar (died 1968)
October 5 – Barbu Lăzăreanu, Romanian literary historian, poet, and communist journalist (died 1957)
October 15 – P. G. Wodehouse, English-born humorous novelist (died 1975)
October 30 – Elizabeth Madox Roberts, American novelist and poet (died 1941)
January 12 – George Robert Aberigh-Mackay, Anglo-Indian author (tetanus, born 1848)
January 28 – Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russian novelist (born 1821)
January 30 – Anna Maria Hall, Irish novelist (born 1800)
March 23 – George Métivier, Guernsey poet writing in Guernésiais (born 1790)
April 19 – Benjamin Disraeli, English novelist and politician (born 1804)
April 24 – James Thomas Fields, American publisher (born 1817)
July 1 – Hermann Lotze, German philosopher (born 1817)
July 12 – Caroline Leakey, English poet and novelist (born 1827)
October 13 – Mary Emma Ebsworth, English dramatist (born 1794)
December 13 – August Šenoa, Croatian novelist and critic (born 1804)
Unknown date – Liu Xizai (刘熙载), Chinese scholar and literary critic (born 1813)
Private consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson first meet at Bart’s Hospital, London, prior to the events commencing on March 4 narrated in Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet (1887).
1881 in literature Wikipedia
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1881.