Thought of the Day

  “It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.” -- P. G. Wodehouse

Today in Literary History – February 15, 1998 – war correspondent and novelist Martha Gelhorn dies

Martha Gelhorn, the war correspondent, novelist and third wife of Ernest Hemingway, died on February 15, 1998 at the age of 89. She was in poor health, suffering from ovarian and liver cancer and nearly blind. She choose to end her life by suicide. Gelhorn came from a politically progressive Jewish family in St. Louis, …

On This Day in Literary History – February 13, 1769 – Russian fable writer Ivan Krylov is born

Ivan Krylov, who wrote some of the most famous fables in Russian literature and came to be known as “The Russian La Fontaine,” was born in Moscow on February 13, 1769. His father was a military officer from the lowest ranks of the Russian nobility. He died when Krylov was ten years old, plunging the …

On This Day in Literary History – February 10, 1609 – Sir John Suckling, poet, playwright, playboy and the inventor of cribbage is born

Sir John Suckling, poet, playwright, playboy and the inventor of cribbage, was born on February 10, 1609. His father was Secretary of State under King James I and Comptroller of the Household of King Charles I. He died when Suckling was only 18, leaving him a vast fortune and a large estate. Suckling was sent …

Today in Literary History – February 9, 1863 – Anthony Hope, author of The Prisoner of Zenda is born

Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, who wrote under the name Anthony Hope was born in London on February 9, 1863. Hope was a prolific and versatile writer who is known today for two influential adventure novels, The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau. Both novels are set in the fictional mitteleuropean kingdom of …

Today in Literary History – February 8, 1828 – Jules Verne is born

Jules Verne, the French novelist and so-called “Father of Science Fiction,” was born in Nantes on February 8, 1828. He is famous for his groundbreaking series of Voyages extraordinaire (“Fantastic Voyages”) – novels such as Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days. Verne’s …

Today in Literary History – February 7, 1837 – Sir James Murray, creator of the Oxford English Dictionary, is born

Sir James Murray, the Scottish lexicographer who was the creator of the Oxford English Dictionary, was born on February 7, 1837. He lived and breathed the dictionary project from 1879 when he became its editor until his death in 1915. The complete version of the OED was not finished until 1928. Murray was a mostly …

Today in Literary History – Isabella Beeton, author of “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management” dies at the age of 28

Isabella Beeton, the journalist and author of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, died on February 6, 1865 at the age of 28. Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, published four years before her death, was the most popular and influential book on how and what to cook and how to successfully manage a household …

Today in Literary History – February 4, 1862 – James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans is published

The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper's influential novel of the clash between the early American settlers and the indigenous native tribes was first published on February 4, 1862. The novel was the second of Cooper’s five-book cycle known collectively as The Leatherstocking Tales. Each of the novels is centred around the character Natty …

Today in Literary History – February 2, 1922 – James Joyce’s Ulysses is first published in Paris

James Joyce's massive and complex masterpiece Ulysses was first published in Paris by Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Company on February 2, 1922, Joyce's 40th birthday. Sections of the book had already been serialized in a small magazine in the United States, The Little Review. In 1921 the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice …

Today in Literary History – January 31, 1872 – pioneering American Western novelist Zane Grey is born

Zane Grey, the novelist who invented the American Western genre, was born in Zanesville, Ohio on January 31, 1872. Grey had a colourful life as a semi-professional baseball player, a dentist, an award-winning deep sea fisherman and bestselling author. He was by far the most commercially successful American writer in the 1910s to 1930s. Many …

Today in Literary History – January 30, 1935 – Richard Brautigan is born

Richard Brautigan, the American novelist, poet and short story writer, was born on January 30, 1935 in Tacoma, Washington. He was raised in extreme poverty. In 1955 he was arrested for throwing a rock through a police station window just to get arrested so that he could be fed in jail. Brautigan was diagnosed with …

Today in Literary History – January 25, 1874 – novelist W. Somerset Maugham is born

English novelist and playwright W. Somerset Maugham (known to his friends as “Willie") was born on January 25, 1874 in the British Embassy in Paris. His father, a lawyer attached to the embassy arranged for Maugham to be born there (it was legally considered British territory) to ensure his British citizenship. Maugham grew up in …

Today in Literary History – January 22, 1572 – Poet John Donne is Born

The poet and cleric John Donne was born on or about January 22, 1572. (There is some debate about the exact day, but January 22 is the commonly accepted date by most authorities .) John Donne’s poetry is widely popular today and has been since the beginning of the 20th century -- partly because its …

Today in Literary History – January 20, 1961, 1977, 1993, 1997, 2009 and 2013 – Poets at US Presidential Inaugurations

January 20th was set as the permanent date of American presidential inaugurations in 1933 with the passing of the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Before then inaugurations were held on March 4th. Since 1933 three American presidents, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barak Obama (all of them Democrats) have chosen to have …

Today in Literary History – January 18, 1936 – Rudyard Kipling dies

The Nobel Prize-winning author and poet Rudyard Kipling died January 18, 1936 at the age of seventy. His body was cremated and his ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey next to the graves of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy. Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, where his father, a …

Today in Literary History – January 16, 1605 – Part One of Don Quixote is published

Part One of Miguel de Cervantes’s masterpiece Don Quixote was published in Spain on January 16, 1605 as El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (“The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha”). Don Quixote in his library by DoreDon Quixote is generally referred to as the first modern novel. Its plot arc and its scenes of dialogue distinguish …

Today in Literary History – January 13, 1898 – Émile Zola publishes “J’Accuse…!”

On January 13, 1898 French novelist Émile Zola published an open letter to the French President Félix Faure in the newspaper L'Aurore. The letter was headlined “J'Accuse...!” In it Zola accused President Faure and his government of anti-Semitism in its handling of the so called “Dreyfus affair," in which a French General Staff officer, Alfred …

Today in Literary History – January 12, 1628 – Charles Perrault, the “Father of Mother Goose,” is born

Charles Perrault, the “Father of Mother Goose,” who brought the world the stories of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and many others, was born in Paris on January 12, 1628, the son of a wealthy lawyer. Perrault himself was later to become an influential  lawyer and government functionary. He was an aide to …