Today in Literary History – September 23, 1973 – Chilean poet Pablo Neruda dies

The Nobel prize-winning Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda died on September 23, 1973, just 12 days after the murder of his friend President Salvador Allende in a right wing coup. There have been persistent rumours that Neruda, a leftist, was poisoned on orders from the new Pinochet dictatorship. In 2013 Neruda's body was exhumed …

Today in Literary History – September 22,1693 – Lord Chesterfield is born

Philip Dormer Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield and a noted statesman, writer and wit, was born on September 22, 1693. Lord Chesterfield was known in his various governmental positions for his tact and unfailingly courteous manners. He was also famous for his oratorical skills and verbal wit. As a writer he is known for …

Today in Literary History – September 21, 1937 – J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is first published

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien's now classic children's fantasy novel, was first published on September 21, 1937. It is a quest-type novel and establishes the fictional world that Tolkien would flesh out in his later Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien was an Oxford professor of Anglo-Saxon literature at the time and had a strong interest in …

Today in Literary History – September 8, 1886 – poet Siegfried Sassoon is born

The World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon was born in Kent on September 8, 1886 to a Christian mother and a Jewish father. His father’s family, the Sasoons, who made their fortune mostly in India and were known as “the Rothschilds of the East,” disowned and dis-inhereted Sassoon’s father for his marriage outside the Jewish …

Today in Literary History – September 6, 1951 – the day William S. Burroughs shot and killed his wife

On September 6, 1951, William S. Burroughs, famous now for his hallucinatory novels such as Junkyand Naked Lunch, shot and killed his wife Joan Vollmer at a drunken house party in Mexico City, where they were living at the time. Stories about the shooting vary wildly but the tale that Burroughs and Joan were enacting a version …

Today in Literary History – September 4, 1986 – Belgian crime novelist Georges Simenon dies

Georges Simenon, the prolific Belgian detective novelist and creator of the immortal Inspector Maigret mysteries, died in Lausanne, Switzerland on September 4, 1989, at the age of 86. Over the course of his career Simenon wrote at least 400 books, 76 of them featuring his most famous creation, the pipe-smoking Inspector Jules Maigret of the …

Today in Literary History – September 3, 1592 – dramatist and pamphleteer Robert Greene dies

Robert Greene, the Elizabethan era dramatist, pamphleteer and the first person to mention Shakespeare in print (at least by allusion) died on September 3, 1592 at the age of 34. Much of Greene's life and death is known only by speculation. He does seem to have been a friendly rival of Shakespeare and seems, by …

Today in Literary History – September 1, 1875 – Tarzan of the Apes creator Edgar Rice Burroughs is born

Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan of the Apes and author of many other fantasy and science fiction novels, was born in Chicago on September 1, 1875. He enlisted in the army as a young man but was discharged because of a heart ailment. He then spent many years working at a series of …

Today in Literary History – August 30, 1925 -Babar author Laurent de Brunhoff is born

Laurent de Brunhoff, who took over writing and illustrating the Babar the Elephant series of books after his father's early death, was born on August 30, 1925. His father, Jean de Brunhoff, died in 1937, at the age of 37, when Laurent was 12 years old. Jean had produced six Babar books in his lifetime. …

Today in Literary History – August 28, 1913 – novelist Robertson Davies is born

Robertson Davies, the Canadian novelist, playwright, actor, critic and newspaperman, was born on August 28, 1913 in the town of Thamesville, Ontario, which he fictionalized as Deptford in his most famous trilogy, The Deptford Trilogy (Fifth Business, The Manticore and World of Wonders). His father, Rupert Davies, was a Welsh immigrant who later became the …

Today in Literary History – August 27, 1959 – novelist Jeanette Winterson is born

The British novelist Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester on August 27, 1959. She was given up for adoption at birth and does not know who her biological parents were and claims to have no curiosity about them. Her adoptive parents were fundamentalist Pentecostals. “Their God is very literal -- Jimmy Swaggart’s God,” she told …

Today in Literary History – August 26, 1875 – novelist and Canadian Governor General John Buchan is born

John Buchan, the 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, British novelist and 15th Governor General of Canada, was born in Perth, Scotland on August 26, 1875. Buchan wrote many novels -- one a year for 25 years. The best known today are Prestor John, The Thirty-Nine Steps and its sequel Greenmantle. The Thirty-Nine Steps was turned into an …

Today in Literary History – August 24, 1872 – “The Incomperable Max” Beerbohm is born

Max Beerbohm (or to give him his full handle, Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm) was born in London on August 24, 1872. He was known originally as a dandy and a bon vivant (closely associated with Oscar Wilde's circle, a good friend of Aubrey Beardsley) and an accomplished caricaturist (signing his drawings as simply "Max"). He …

Today in Literary History – August 21, 1920 – Christopher Robin Milne is born

Christopher Robin Milne was born on August 21, 1920. His father was A.A. Milne, the creator of the Winnie-the-Pooh books that were based on Christopher Robin and his teddy bear, "Winnie-the-Pooh." The younger Milne resented his childhood being used by his father as literary inspiration. Some offspring may have taken it with good grace and …

Today in Literary History – August 18, 1958 – Nabokov’s Lolita is first published in the US 60 years ago today

Vladimir Nabokov's controversial masterpiece Lolita was first published in the United States sixty years ago today, on August 18, 1958. It had originally been published in Paris in 1955 by Olympia Press (which specialized in "erotica") in two error-ridden volumes. It would not be be published in the UK until 1959. The novel's plot, the …

Today in Literary History – August 17, 1945 – George Orwell’s Animal Farm is published

Animal Farm, George Orwell's satirical dystopian fable, was first published on August 17, 1945. He had begun the novel in 1943 after resigning from his position at the BBC to concentrate on writing. The story of Animal Farm is one of a revolution by the barnyard animals against Farmer Jones, his wife and his hired …

Today in Literary History – August 16, 1920 – Charles Bukowski is born

The American poet and novelist Charles Bukowski was born in Germany on August 16, 1920 as Heinrich Karl Bukowski. His father was a German-American who served as a sergeant in the American army during World War I and with the army of occupation in Germany after the war. After leaving the services he stayed on in …

Today in Literary History – August 14, 1969 – Leonard Woolf dies

Leonard Woolf, the editor, publisher, novelist, memoirist and husband of Virginia Woolf, died from a stroke on August 14, 1969 at the age of eighty-eight. Woolf was born into a Jewish family in London. His father had been a lawyer but after he died when Woolf was eleven years old the family fell on hard …

Today in Literary History – August 12, 1867 – Classicist Edith Hamilton is born

Edith Hamilton, whose books popularizing Greek and Roman culture and mythology, was born on August 12, 1867. She died in 1963 at the age of ninety-five. Her books, such as The Greek Way, The Roman Way and, most especially, Mythology, introduced many readers to the ancient myths and their meanings and to the worldviews of …