Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius Sienkiewicz was born on May 5th 1846, into an impoverished Polish noble family in Russian-ruled Congress Poland.
He normally published under the shortened version as Henryk Sienkiewicz.
It was only in 1866 that he completed his secondary-school diploma. At first he tried to study medicine, then law, at the Imperial University of Warsaw, but he soon transferred to the university's Institute of Philology and History, where he acquired a thorough knowledge of literature and Old Polish language. His living circumstances meant he was living in poverty and existing only by tutoring the children of other families. In 1868 his circumstances improved when he became tutor to the princely Woroniecki family.
In 1869 his analysis of a play was published in the Weekly Review and shortly afterward The Illustrated Weekly printed his essay about the late-Renaissance Polish poet Mikolaj Sep Szarzynski.
Sienkiewicz completed his university studies in 1871, though he failed to receive a diploma because he did not pass the examination in Greek language. However, he was gaining some traction writing for such publications as Gazeta Polska (The Polish Gazette) and Niwa (magazine), under the pen name 'Litwos'. In 1873 he began writing a column, 'Bez tytulu' (Without a title), in The Polish Gazette and, in 1874, one for Niwa, 'Sprawy biezace' (Current matters), and in 1875 the column, 'Chwila obecna' (The Present Moment). He also collaborated on a Polish translation, published in 1874, of Victor Hugo's last novel, 'Ninety-Three'. In June of the same year he became co-owner of Niwa.
This was followed by 'Humoreski z teki Woroszylly' (Humorous Sketches from Woroszylla's Files, 1872), 'Stary Sluga' (The Old Servant, 1875), 'Hania' (Sienkiewicz) (1876) and 'Selim Mirza' (1877). These last three are known as the 'Little Trilogy'. Together these publications made him a prominent figure in Warsaw's journalistic-literary world.
In the late 1870s he traveled to the United States, writing many travel essays which helped win him further popularity with Polish readers.
From the 1880s he also began serializing his novels and soon became one of the most popular Polish writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. His numerous translations gained him international renown.
In Poland he is best known for his 'Trilogy' of historical novels - 'Fire and Sword', 'The Deluge', and 'Sir Michael' all set in the 17th-century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
However, in the rest of the world his fame is set with 'Quo Vardis' an epic in length and scope and set in Emperor Nero's Rome. It easily became the best-selling book of 1897, a enduring and literary sensation.
In 1905 he won a Nobel Prize for his lifetime achievements as an epic writer. In his acceptance speech, he said this honor was of particular value to a son of Poland: "She was pronounced dead-yet here is proof that she lives on.... She was pronounced defeated-and here is proof that she is victorious."
Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius Sienkiewicz died on 15th November 1916, at the Grand Hotel du Lac in Vevey, Switzerland from ischemic heart disease.