Henry Beston Sheahan was in born in Boston in 1888, and grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts with his parents, Dr. Joseph Sheahan and Marie Louise (Maurice) Beston Sheahan, and brother George. Beston attended Adams Academy in Quincy before earning his B.A. (1909) and M.A. (1911) from Harvard College.
After leaving Harvard, Beston took up teaching at the University of Lyon. In 1914, he returned to Harvard as an English department assistant. Beston joined the French army in 1915 and served as an ambulance driver. His service in le Bois le Pretre and at the Battle of Verdun was described in his first book, A Volunteer Poilu. In 1918, Beston became a press representative for the U.S. Navy. Highlights from this period include being the only American correspondent to travel with the British Grand Fleet and to be aboard an American destroyer during combat engagement and sinking. His second book of journalistic work, Full Speed Ahead, described these experiences.
Following the end of World War I, Beston began writing fairy tales under the name “Henry Beston”. In 1919, The Firelight Fairy Book was published, followed by The Starlight Wonder Book in 1923. During this time, he worked as an editor of The Living Age, an offshoot of The Atlantic Monthly. He also met his future wife Elizabeth Coatsworth, a fellow author of children’s literature, during this time. They were married in 1929, and in 1932, had a daughter, Kate Barnes.
Beston died on April 15, 1968 in Nobleboro, Maine, and is buried in a small cemetery at Chimney Farm.