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January 1, 1818 – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus was published anonymously in London. After commercial success and much speculation as to the text’s authorship, the second edition was published in 1823 with Mary Shelley’s name on it. Shelley faced extreme sexism and criticism from critics, who accused her of being unworthy of her father or her husband’s name. Although the book is still widely read and taught today, Shelley died penniless and virtually friendless at the age of 53.
January 2, 1814 – The fourth and final canto of Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was published, selling out 500 copies in 3 days. Byron considered the narrative poem his best work, and it contained the first appearance of what is now known as a Byronic hero.
January 3, 1892 – John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, known to readers as JRR Tolkien, was born in British-occupied South Africa.
January 4, 1965 – Poet and author T.S. Eliot died from emphysema and was interred in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey.
January 5, 1886 – Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published in London. It was sold for one shilling in the UK and one dollar in the US. Despite its low price, the book sold 40,000 copies in its first six months.
January 6, 1605 – The first edition of Miguel Cervantes’ groundbreaking novel Don Quixote de la Mancha was published in Madrid. Many of its first editions were sent via ship overseas to the New World, and the novel was a sensation in both hemispheres.
January 6, 1878 – American poet Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois. Sandburg was the recipient of numerous Pulitzer prizes and is best remembered for his unique poetry, especially his depictions of his hometown of Chicago.
January 7, 1891 – American author Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama. Hurston’s work was largely ignored until Alice Walker published her article, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” in Ms. Magazine. Since then she has become a fixture in American literature, particularly for her perspective from the African American woman.
January 8, 1981 – Chilean writer Isabel Allende wrote a letter to her dying grandfather, a letter which would evolve into her first best-selling novel The House of the Spirits.
January 9, 1908 – Feminist philosopher and author Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris, France. After her family’s financial crisis following World War I, de Beauvoir learned to rely on her astounding intelligence to move forward. She not only wrote several award-winning novels, but became a household name in philosophy and feminism.
January 10, 1776 – Thomas Paine published his popular pamphlet “Common Sense,” advocating for America’s independence. Unlike many highbrow and poetic publications of the time, Paine wrote his essay in persuasive prose, ensuring that it could be read and understood by any literate person in the colonies.
January 11, 2007 – JK Rowling completed work on her seventh and final Harry Potter books in room 552 of the Bamoral Hotel in Edinburgh. Rowling found working at her home noisy and distracting, so she lived in the hotel for six months as she wrote Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in secret. In its first 24 hours, the book sold 8.3 million copies in America alone.
January 12, 1876 – Author Jack London was born in San Francisco, California. London led a life full of excitement, developing scurvy during the gold rush, working as a war correspondent, and becoming one of the first celebrity writers of America.
January 13, 1695 – Irish writer and master satirist Jonathan Swift was ordained as an Anglican priest.
January 14, 1898 – British author Lewis Carroll died from pneumonia in his sister’s home.
January 15, 1622 – French playwright and humorist Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known by his stage name Moliere, was born in Paris. Apparently, upon being presented to the household, one of the family’s maids exclaimed, “Le Nez!” upon seeing Moliere’s large nose. This unfortunately became his childhood nickname.
January 16, 1974 – Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws was published by Doubleday, proving a commercial success immediately. The book spent 44 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and led to the iconic Spielberg film. Peter Benchley developed guilt over the public’s growing negative attitude toward sharks and the resulting endangerment to some of their species. He became a conservationist later in his career and made conscious efforts to restore the reputation of sharks until his death in 2006.
January 17, 1820 – Anne Brontë, the youngest of the Brontë sisters, was born in Yorkshire, England. Although Anne is the least known of her famous sisters, she did publish a volume of poetry with her sisters, as well as two novels: Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Sadly, Anne Brontë died at the age of 29 from tuberculosis.
January 18, 1904 – Anton Chekhov’s final play, The Cherry Orchard opened at the Moscow Art Theater.
January 18, 1882 – Alan Alexander Milne, known in print as A.A. Milne, was born in London. Milne is best known as the author and creator of Winnie the Pooh, but many do not know that he wrote other novels, plays, and articles, as well as served in both World Wars.
January 19, 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, master of the macabre poem and short story, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Although Poe’s writing is well-known and widely read today, widely was his only source of income and contributed to his many financial woes throughout his life.
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June 29, 1613 – Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre burned down after a cannon blast in a performance of Henry VIII went awry. Thankfully, a new theater was rebuilt in 1614 and eventually a replica appeared along the River Thames for modern Shakespeare lovers to enjoy!
June 30, 1911 – Czesław Miłosz, Polish poet, writer, and diplomat was born in what is now Lithuania. Miłosz worked in Warsaw under the Nazis but secretly helped several Jews escape from his government. In 1953 his book, The Captive Mind, discussed how captives behave under an oppressive government and criticized Stalin and all forms of totalitarianism. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980.
July 1, 1804 – Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, known by her pen name as George Sand, was born in France. Dupin was groundbreaking in women’s rights and female authorship, publishing over 70 novels and plays. She also made waves for her many romantic affairs and her affinity for smoking in public and wearing men’s clothes, simply because they were “sturdier and less expensive.” You may be familiar with her most famous quote, “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”
July 2, 1961 – Ernest Hemingway, beloved American author and journalist, committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho. Hemingway led a vigorous life, filled with adventures and love affairs, but a series of plane accidents left him suffering from physical pain, poor eyesight, and depression. Hemingway was subjected to electroshock therapy to treat his growing paranoia and depression, but he eventually shot himself in the entryway of his Idaho home.
July 3, 1883 – Franz Kafka was born in Prague. Kafka became one of the best writers of the 20th century, known for his absurdist and existentialist themes.
July 4, 1862 – Lewis Carroll began writing his masterpiece, Alice in Wonderland, after telling a simple tale to a friend’s daughter, Alice Liddell. Little Alice liked the story so much she begged him to write it down, resulting in a novel which is a wonder of imagination, and having the titular character named after her.
July 5, 1880 – George Bernard Shaw quit his job at the successful Edison Telephone Company to become a full time writer at the age of 23. This decision was ultimately a wise one, as the writer of Pygmalion and other plays was eventually awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925.
July 6, 1942 – Anne Frank and her family entered the “Secret Annex” above an office building in Amsterdam and remained in hiding for a little more than 2 years. Anne’s diary became a monument in literature and Anne was named one of TIME magazine’s most important people in the century, saying, “With a diary kept in a secret attic, she braved the Nazis and lent a searing voice to the fight for human dignity.”
July 7, 1930 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died at the age of 71. After a successful writing career, in which he created the beloved character Sherlock Holmes, Doyle was found clutching his chest in his home office. His dying words, directed to his wife, were, “You are wonderful.”
July 8, 1918 – Ernest Hemingway was wounded in a battle in Italy. His hospitalization in Milan led to him meeting and falling in love with his nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky. Though Kurowsky would eventually leave him for another man, Hemingway based the character Catherine Barkley from A Farewell to Arms on her.
July 9, 1764 – Ann Radcliffe was born in Holborn, London. Radcliffe wrote The Italian, for which she was paid so well she became the highest paid author in the 1790s. Although her works do not contain as many supernatural elements, she is considered the founder of the Gothic novel.
July 10, 1871 – Marcel Proust was born in Auteuil, France. Proust’s monumental work, À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time), consists of seven volumes, over 4000 pages and more than 2000 characters!
July 11, 1960 – Harper Lee’s masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird was published by J. B. Lippincott & Co. When first published, Lee was told to only expect to sell about a thousand copies. Instead, it was featured in Reader’s Digest and became an immediate bestseller. To this date, it has never been out of print.
July 12, 1817 – Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau’s writings touch on almost every subject, including civics, environmentalism, history, and philosophy. He is best known for his book Walden, explaining his views on living simply in nature.
July 13, 2004 – Nadine Gordimer, South African writer and activist, died. Gordimer was an active critic of apartheid and advised Nelson Mendela in writing his most famous speeches. Though her works Burger’s Daughter and July’s People were banned during the apartheid era, she was eventually given recognition she deserved and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991.
July 14, 1811 – Lord Byron returned to England after a two year trip through the Mediterranean. Shortly after his return he published Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which brought him instant popularity. Byron said, “I awoke one morning and found myself famous.” Byron’s fame would greatly influence his flamboyant lifestyle and controversial romantic choices.
July 15, 1838 – Ralph Waldo Emerson shocked listeners when he gave the commencement address at Harvard Divinity School, his alma mater. In his speech he credited Jesus as being a great man, but not God. Despite the large outcry of critics, Emerson made no reply. He was not invited back to Harvard for thirty years.
July 16, 1927 – Theodore Geisel published his first cartoon under the nickname “Dr. Seuss” in the magazine, The Judge. For the next few years that publication featured four of his covers and over 200 individual cartoons.
July 17, 1947 – Jack Kerouac embarked on his first cross-country road trip with friends “in search of God.” His journals from this trip and subsequent trips across America eventually formed his groundbreaking novel, On the Road.
July 18, 1937 – Hunter S. Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Thompson rose to fame after reporting on his time spent living with the famed motorcycle group, Hell’s Angels. His new first-person style of reporting was eventually dubbed “gonzo journalism” and he became most famous for his novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
July 19, 2009 – Author and educator Frank McCourt died at the age of 78. McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes, which depicted his poverty-stricken upbringing in Ireland, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996.
July 20, 1933 – Cormac McCarthy was born in Providence, Rhode Island. McCarthy’s prose has shaped contemporary fiction, including hits such as Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road.
July 21, 2007 – The final installment of the Harry Potter series was published. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was met with extremely favorable reviews and currently holds the Guinness World Record for most book sales in a 24 hour period.
July 22, 1948 – Young adult author S. E. Hinton was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hinton became a household name when she published the groundbreaking YA novel The Outsiders, which she wrote when she was only 16 years old. The Outsiders was one of the first books targeted to teens, and it is often credited for originating the young adult fiction genre.
July 23, 1888 – American novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago. After losing his job in the Great Depression, Chandler found more time to write, publishing The Big Sleep in 1939. He wrote several more novels and short stories, and is credited with creating the “hard-boiled detective” stock character in literature and films.
July 24, 1901 – William Sydney Porter, known by his pen name as O. Henry, was released from a three year prison sentence on embezzlement charges. It appears that while O. Henry was a brilliant writer, he was a rather careless banker, resulting in a two year run from the law, where the author hid from the government in Honduras. Although he served three years in prison, Porter continued to write under a pen name, publishing 14 stories while he was in jail.
July 25, 1941 – Emmett Till was born in Chicago. At the age of 14, Emmett was brutally mutilated, shot, and thrown in a river for whistling at a white woman. His mother’s insistence on an open casket opened many’s eyes to the brutality of Jim Crow laws and made Till a historic icon of the Civil Rights movement. Emmett Till has been honored in poems, songs, plays, and novels, and was likely an influence on Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
July 26, 1856 – Playwright George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin. In his lifetime Shaw wrote over 60 plays and earned the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925.
July 27, 1835 – Poet and literary critic Giosuè Carducci was born in Tuscany, Italy. Carducci is known as the national modern poet of Italy and he was awarded Italy’s first Nobel Prize in Literature in 1906.
July 28, 1814 – Percy Bysshe Shelley abandoned his wife and “eloped” with Mary Godwin, who was only 16. Although the two ran off to marry, this was impossible as Shelley was already married. The couple caused quite the scandal until the two were legally married two years later, after the suicide of Shelley’s wife.
July 29, 1954 – J. R. R. Tolkien published his first volume of the Lord of the Ring series, The Fellowship of the Ring. The book was met with mostly favorable reviews, which only improved as the rest of the series was published in the following years. Recently, The Lord of the Rings series has been compared to Paradise Lost in terms of its cultural significance.
July 30, 1935 – The first paperback books were published by Penguin Books in the UK. Paperbacks have been a vital invention to increase literacy among the general population and in getting books in public schools. For this reason July 30 is National Paperback Book Day!
July 31, 1965 – British author JK Rowling was born in Gloucestershire, England. Rowling shot to immediate fame after the publication of her immensely popular children’s book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, starring a scarred boy who shared the same birthday. Today, Rowling is one of the wealthiest women in the world, as well as being an generous charitable donor.
August 1, 1891 – Novelist Herman Melville was born in New York City. Although Melville’s novel Moby Dick is now considered a classic, its commercial success did not happen until after Melville’s death in 1891. In his lifetime Melville earned little more than $10,000 from his writing.
August 2, 1869 – Mary Anne Evans began writing her novel Middlemarch under the pen name George Eliot. This book, published in 1871, is considered by critics to be her best work, although it was met with mixed reviews upon its publication.
August 3, 1861 – Charles Dickens published his last installment of Great Expectations. The novel was originally published in nine monthly serials in the publication Harper’s Weekly. Each section was met with greatly positive reviews from critics and general readers alike. Today it stands out as one of Dickens’ most important novels.
August 4, 1913 – Poet Robert Hayden was born in Detroit Michigan. Hayden’s achievements in poetry led to his appointment as the first African American Poet Laureate.
August 5, 1850 – French writer Guy de Maupassant was born in the Normandy region. Maupassant has become known as one of the masters of the short story, with classics such as “The Necklace” still being taught in ELA classrooms around the world.
August 6, 1637 – English playwright, poet, and critic Ben Jonson died in in London, England. Jonson lived as a contemporary of Shakespeare, but eventually rose to be a favorite of King James I and a royal patron of the monarch. His poetry and plays are still taught in English classes around the world today.
August 7, 1606 – According to rumor, Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth was performed for King James I for the very first time.
August 8, 1818 – 22-year-old John Keats returned home from a two month walking tour of Scotland, showing the early symptoms of tuberculosis, which would take his life three years later. It is conjectured that Keats contracted the disease after caring for his brother Tom, who also had the disease.
August 9, 1854 – Henry David Thoreau published his transcendentalist work on self-reliance, Walden, reflecting on the two years, two months, and two days spent living in isolation near Walden’s Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. Although the publication was a slow success, it now stands as one of America’s most celebrated works of literature.
August 10, 1962 – American author Suzanne Collins, best known for her young adult series sensation The Hunger Games, was born in Hartford, Connecticut.
August 11, 1921 – Author Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York. Haley found success with the publication of a biography on Malcolm X, but shot to stardom after his book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, was adapted into a miniseries in 1977. Roots reached over 130 million viewers, breaking numerous television records and raising public awareness in African American history and genealogy.
August 12, 1937 – Author Walter Dean Myers was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Myers is best remembered for his achievements in children’s and young adult literature, including Monster, Fallen Angels, and Hoops. Before his death in 2014, Myers was awarded the Coretta Scott King award five times.
August 13, 1976 – Author and historian H.G. Wells died in London at the age of 79. Wells was a celebrated futurist and science fiction writer, best known for his hits The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Invisible Man. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four separate times, but never won.
August 14, 1963 – American playwright Clifford Odets of Philadelphia passed away in LA of stomach cancer. Odets, best known for his plays The Golden Boy and Waiting for Lefty, was summoned before the HUAC and worked with Elia Kazan to name identical Communist suspects. Although he was never officially blacklisted, his career struggled to recover for years after his HUAC appearance.
August 15, 1771 – Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Because of a bout with polio as a child, Scott was severely handicapped, causing him to spend a lot of time reading and studying in his youth. After university Scott became a translator and then a writer, eventually producing hits such as Ivanhoe and Rob Roy. Some believe him to be the originator of the modern historical novel.
August 16, 1920 – Charles Bukowski, born Heinreich Karl Bukowski, was born in the Rhine Province of Germany. Bukowski became for his gritty poetry and short story fiction, as well as his masculine bravado and strong drinking habits. He died in 1994 of leukemia.
August 17, 1946 – George Orwell published his totalitarian novella, Animal Farm, in Great Britain. This astounding work not only reflected Stalin’s rise to dictatorship and abuse of power but actually prophesied events to come in the future with the Cold War.
August 18, 1958 – Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel, Lolita, was published in America, two years after its original publication in Paris. Although the book’s sexual content got it banned in France and England, it went unnoticed by censors in America and was quite well-received.
August 19, 1692 – Five citizens of Salem were put to death for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. Martha Carrier, George Jacobs Sr., George Burroughs, John Willard, and John Proctor were condemned on spectral evidence and hanged before an audience of townspeople, inciting a feeling of fear and judgment that ran rampant throughout New England for over a year.
August 20, 1890 – Horror writer H. P. Lovecraft was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Although his novels and short stories are currently celebrated among fans of horror and “weird fiction,” Lovecraft never experienced any commercial success or recognition for his written works during his lifetime. He died penniless and malnourished at the age of 46.
August 21, 1920 – A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, was born in London. Christopher Robin and the teddy bear he received for his first birthday inspired Milne’s beloved Winnie-the-Pooh characters.
August 22, 1893 – Essayist, poet, and playwright Dorothy Parker was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. Parker was a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, until her left-wing political views led to her eventual blacklisting during the McCarthy Trials. She was a longstanding advocate for Civil Rights causes, and when she died in 1967, she bequeathed her entire estate to Martin Luther King Jr.
August 23, 1868 – Author Edgar Lee Masters was born in Garnett, Kansas. He is best remembered for writing The Spoon River Anthology, but he was also author to 12 plays, 21books of poetry, 6 novels and 6 biographies.
August 24, 79 AD – 17-year-old Pliny the Younger witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius, which became famous when written in a letter to Tacitus 25 years later. Pliny’s descriptions of the eruption and ash patterns actually influenced modern scientists and helped them learn about volcanic surges.
August 25, 1885 – Laura Ingalls, author of the beloved Little House on the Prairie books, married Almanzo Wilder and moved to their new homestead in De Smet, North Dakota. Although the two were married for 64 years, their first few years of marriage were filled with hardships, including the loss of their 12-day-old son, the loss of their barn to a fire, and Almanzo’s partial paralysis from a bout of diphtheria.
August 26, 1885 – French poet Jules Romains was born in the Haute-Loire. Romains was the founder of Unanimism, a principle which rejected the works of the individual and focused more on literary as representative of a whole.
August 27, 1912 – American author Edgar Rice Burroughs published his first book in his popular novel series, Tarzan of the Apes. Ray Bradbury described the influence of this book and of Burroughs, saying, “By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special.”
August 28, 1963 – Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This speech is known for its inspirational use of voice, allusions, and rhetorical devices, ranking it as the most influential American speech of the 20th century among a poll of scholars.
August 29, 1838 – The Grimm Brothers began their ambitious lifelong task of creating the first German dictionary. Their first volume, only getting through most of the ‘F,’s was published in in 1848. The completed dictionary wasn’t published until 1961, 123 years after its initial inception.
August 30, 1797 – British author Mary Shelley was born in London, England. Shelley was born to famous parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. When she fell in love with Percy Bysshe Shelley, she eloped with him and traveled Europe with a group of free-thinking writers. She wrote Frankenstein on a dare, resulting in one of the most enduring works of science fiction and gothic horror. Despite the novel’s brilliance, the Shelleys struggled to gain acceptance due to their debts and bad reputation. Mary died at the age of 53, still maintaining her own authorship of Frankenstein, which many believed was really written by her more famous husband.
August 31, 1946 – The New Yorker dedicated an entire issue to telling the stories of six survivors of the attack on Hiroshima. John Hersey’s landmark work of reporting took four years of interviewing and composition. It was originally meant to be a four-part serial, but the editors chose instead to devote an entire issue toward the piece.
September 1, 1952 – Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea was published in Life Magazine. The magazine sold five million copies in only two days and launched Hemingway to new levels of celebrity. Two years later it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
September 2, 1918 – Pulitzer Prize-winning author Allen Drury was born in Houston, Texas. Drury is best known for his political novel, Advise and Consent, published in 1959.
September 3, 1980 – Legendary actor Peter O’Toole returned to the stage after a 17 year absence from the theater in the cursed role of Macbeth. O’Toole was apparently spooked by the legendary curse of the Scottish play and refused to let anyone in the cast use it by its name. The production suffered from blunders and bad luck, and O’Toole’s performance was universally panned by critics, with some calling it “gruesome” and “heroically ludicrous.” Nonetheless, the play still had a successful run and theater-goers attended without fail.
September 4, 1908 – American author Richard Wright was born in Roxie, Mississippi. Wright’s works, especially his most significant novels, Native Son and Black Boy, exposed the plight of modern African-Americans and influenced race relations in the Civil Rights era.
September 5, 1750 – Scottish poet Robert Fergusson was born Edinburgh. Fergusson excelled in writing poetry in the Scottish dialect, but he suffered from severe depression. After sustaining a head injury he was committed to a mental hospital, where he died at the young age of 24. His short life had a larger impact on Scottish readers, as well as on Robert Burns, who used his style of poetry to influence his own, becoming the most famous Scottish poet of all time.
September 6, 1666 – The Great Fire of London finally burned out, resulting in a devastating loss to 70,000 of the city’s 80,000 homes. Famous diarist Samuel Pepys recorded some of the fire’s devastation in his diary: “So down [I went], with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it began this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding Lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish Street already. So I rode down to the waterside, . . . and there saw a lamentable fire. . . . Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the waterside to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies, till they some of them burned their wings and fell down.” – The Diary of Samuel Pepys
September 7, 1996 – Rapper Tupac Shakur was shot four times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He died in the hospital six days later. Although he died at only 25 years old, Tupac’s legacy is powerful in the world of hip hop, race relations, and poetry. Tupac’s words have heavily influenced current methods of teaching poetry to teenagers, and were heavily discussed in the themes of Angie Thomas’ novel, The Hate U Give.
September 8, 1933 – Playwright and novelist Michael Frayn was born in Middlesex, England. Frayn’s plays (Noises Off and Democracy) and novels (Headlong and The Tin Men) have been universally successful, making Frayn one of the writers who has found commercial success in writing both drama and prose.
September 9, 1934 – American poet Sonia Sanchez was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Sanchez emerged as a leading black voice in the Civil Rights movement and was highly influenced by Malcolm X. Her poetry, which has won her the Robert Frost Award, is highly musical and contains influences of Langston Hughes and the blues.
September 10, 1797 – Author and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft died of septicemia in London, 11 days after giving birth to her daughter, Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft (later Mary Shelley). Her husband, philosopher and author William Godwin, was devastated by her loss. He said, “I firmly believe there does not exist her equal in the world. I know from experience we were formed to make each other happy. I have not the least expectation that I can now ever know happiness again.” As the feminist movement grew, Wollstonecraft’s writings, particularly her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women, grew increasingly influential.
September 11, 2001 – Thousands of Americans died in the World Trade Center attacks, permanently affecting American culture for the first decade of the 2000s. The experience touched every American, and something like that has a ripple effect into every aspect of life, including literature. Several literary works have emerged that discuss 9/11, including:
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
- The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
- Falling Man by Don Delillo
- The Good Life by Jay McInerney
September 12, 1846 – Poet Elizabeth Barrett eloped with poet Robert Browning because her father wouldn’t approve of her marriage in London. The two honeymooned in Paris and then moved to Italy. They remained loyal to each other until Barrett Browning’s death in 1861.
September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl was born in Wales. Dahl rose to fame for his delightful and engaging children’s works, including James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and Matilda. Dahl passed away in 1990.
In 2006 the UK designated September 13 National Roald Dahl Day, celebrating the national author’s impact on children’s literature. The whole month is filled with Dahl-themed events and activities, including a dress up day for children in schools. Happy Roald Dahl Day!
September 14, 1814 – Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, witnessed the British attack on Fort McHenry in Maryland. To his surprise, the Fort withstood the day-long attack, and Key was inspired to see a hand-sewn American flag flying over the fort afterwards. He began drafting a poem about the event, which eventually became known as the “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” The poem was printed in handbills and newspapers, including the Baltimore Patriot. The poem was later set to the tune of a drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven,” and came to be called “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
September 15, 1890 – Mystery novelist Agatha Christie was born in Devon, England. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time, having sold over 2 billion books, and being third in all time sales behind the Bible and Shakespeare. She is also the writer of The Mousetrap, the longest continuous-running play of all time, which has been showing in London’s West End since 1952.
September 16, 1943 – James Alan McPherson, fiction writer and memoirist, was born in Iowa City, Iowa. In 1978 he became the first African American recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, for his collection of short stories, Elbow Room.
September 17, 1996 – The first selection of Oprah’s Book Club, Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean, was announced. During the show’s run, Oprah’s Book Club selected 70 titles to be a part of the book club. Books bearing the “Oprah’s Book Club” seal are reported to have sold over 55 million copies. Some of her selected works of fiction include Middlesex by David Eugenides, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, and Love in the Time of Cholera.
September 18, 1917 – British author Aldous Huxley, best known as the writer of Brave New World, was hired at Eton to teach French. One of his students was Eric Blair, who would later become famous under his pen name, George Orwell.
September 19, 2018 – Hermione Granger turns 39 today! Hermione is beloved by fans for intelligence, loyalty, and almost overwhelming desire to do the right thing, not to mention her brilliant portrayal by the elegant Emma Watson Don’t forget to don your S.P.E.W. pins in honor of Ms. Granger today!
September 20, 1948 – George R. R. Martin, author of the best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire series, was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. After the sudden death of good friend and fellow writer Tom Reamy in 1977, Martin decided to quit his teaching job and become a full time writer. In 1982 his novel Fevre Dream became a modest success, launching his career as a novelist. Today he can be found writing for the series Game of Thrones, as avid readers impatiently await his return to the novels rather than writing for the show.
September 21, 1866 – Author H.G. Wells was born in Kent, England. Wells is remembered for his influence in the genre of science fiction, including the publications of The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Time Machine. Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four separate times. Separate from literature, Wells is remembered for founding The Diabetic Association, now known as Diabetes UK, in 1934.
September 22, 1598 – Author and playwright Ben Jonson was indicted on the charge of manslaughter for killing fellow actor, Gabriel Spenser, in a duel. He was saved from hanging for his ability to read a bible verse. He was branded on his thumb and imprisoned for a short time, where he converted to Catholicism. Jonson’s career was largely unaffected from the crime and sentencing, as he was a successful playwright in his lifetime, being on the same level of fame as his contemporary, William Shakespeare.
September 23, 1973 – Chilean poet Pablo Neruda died in the hospital after suffering from prostate cancer. Only two years earlier, Neruda had been awarded the Nobel Prize, however, his diagnosis and political involvement made life increasingly hard to live. He was reported to have called his wife from the hospital only hours before he died. He complained that “they were giving him something that didn’t feel good,” and rumors circulated later that he may not have died of natural causes. To this day, an investigation into Neruda’s death is ongoing, as it was recently discovered that he actually died of a staph infection, which could have possibly been given through an injection from someone who wanted him dead.
September 24, 1896 – Francis Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, MN. Born to an upper middle class family, Fitzgerald moved to New York with his family and eventually studied at Princeton. He and his fabulous wife, Zelda, became celebrities and frequently socialized with other writers, including Ernest Hemingway. The Fitzgeralds were volatile, due to Zelda’s mental health issues (she was later hospitalized with schizophrenia) and Scott’s excessive drinking habits. He died at the age of 44 from heart failure in Hollywood, California.
September 25, 1897 – William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi. Faulkner wrote throughout his lifetime, but didn’t become widely known until he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. His novels The Sound and the Fury, Light in August and As I Lay Dying are among the top works of American writers. Furthermore, his short story “A Rose For Emily” is one of the most widely taught short stories today.
September 26, 1888 – Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1914 Eliot studied in Oxford, which began a lifelong preferral to life in England. In 1927, Eliot became a British citizen and converted to Anglicanism. T.S. Eliot remains a leading voice in poetry, with his works from The Waste Land and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” still being widely taught today.
September 27, 1962 – Rachel Carson, a marine biologist, published her findings on the detrimental effects of synthetic pesticides on the environment in her book Silent Spring. Carson and her team of scientists expected serious backlash from the American public for the book’s claims, but instead it was widely supported by scientists alike and became serialized. The book’s publication led to a rise in environmentalism, as well as the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency under Richard Nixon. Both the Modern Library List and the National Review name Silent Spring as one of the best works of nonfiction from the 20th century.
September 28, 1871 – Italian author Grazia Maria Cosima Damiana Deledda was born in Sardinia. Her accomplishments in writing prose and drama led to her receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1926. Her works are often set in her island town of Sardinia, and she is remembered for her realistic but optimistic portrayal of women’s suffering.
September 29, 1948 – Lawrence Olivier’s Hamlet, which he directed and played the titular role, opened at Park Avenue Cinema. Although the production was not without its criticisms, it exposed modern theater-goers to Shakespeare, and was recognized enough that it became the first British film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. James Agee of TIME magazine said in his review, “A man who can do what Laurence Olivier is doing for Shakespeare is certainly among the more valuable men of his time.”
September 30, 1924 – Author Truman Capote was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Capote first emerged to renown with his publication of short stories. Shortly after the publication of his first novel, he shot to superstardom for his novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, featuring Holly Golightly, one of the most beloved and enduring characters of literature. After that, Capote reached new levels of brilliance with his publication of In Cold Blood, a new form of true crime which Capote dubbed the “nonfiction novel.” After that, Capote moved from novel writing to living the life of the rich and famous, which included heavy alcohol and drug use. He died at the age of 59 due to his substance abuse. He is best remembered for his impacts on both fiction and nonfiction writing, as well as his impacts on the gay rights movement. Capote lived his life as an openly gay man, and though he never became actively or politically involved in the gay rights movement, his unapologetic way of life gave hope and inspiration to many nonetheless.
October 1, 1868 – The first half of Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women, was published by the Roberts Brothers. Alcott was urged to write a “girls’ book,” which she resisted, but she said she would try. After several attempts, her autobiographical approach was met with rave reviews by her niece. This manuscript was published with only 2000 copies, which sold out quickly. Her second half was published in the following year and it brought unexpected critical and commercial success. Today, Little Women is an enduring tale of growing up and finding your path despite societal expectations. It is one of the most widely read novels of American literature.
October 2, 1902 – Beatrix Potter’s children’s story The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published in England. After being rejected several times for lack of color illustrations, she published 250 copies privately and distributed them to friends, including Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Frederick Warne & Co. eventually reconsidered and published 5000 copies, which sold out almost immediately. The story remains a beloved children’s book worldwide.
On this day in ELA: October 3, 1849 – After spending a week in New York City, Edgar Allan Poe was found delirious and walking the streets of Baltimore. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he died four days later. The cause of his death is still unknown, and rumors ranging from suicide, alcoholic or drug overdose, undiagnosed tumors, cholera, and tumors still circulate today.
October 4, 1941 – Author Anne Rice was born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien in New Orleans, Louisiana. Shortly after the loss of her young daughter to leukemia, Rice expanded work on her short story Interview with the Vampire, expanding it into a full novel. Since then, she has created a popular series and is said to have revived the interest in vampire fiction.
October 5, 1911 – Brian O’Nolan, known better by his pen name Flann O’Brien, was born in Strabane County, Tyrone in Ireland. O’Brien wrote a regular satirical column in the Irish Times and published several novels (in both English and traditional Gaelic). Despite being a full time novelist and having a group of literary contemporaries including Samuel Beckett, John Updike, and James Joyce, O’Brien didn’t experience much fame during his lifetime. However, his writing remains today as a fixture of postmodernist literature.
October 6, 2017 – Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Upon receiving the award, Ishiguro said, “It’s a magnificent honour, mainly because it means that I’m in the footsteps of the greatest authors that have lived, so that’s a terrific commendation. The world is in a very uncertain moment and I would hope all the Nobel Prizes would be a force for something positive in the world as it is at the moment. I’ll be deeply moved if I could in some way be part of some sort of climate this year in contributing to some sort of positive atmosphere at a very uncertain time.”
October 7, 1955 – Allen Ginsberg read portions of his poem “Howl” aloud for the first time. The poem, which decried America’s capitalist system and contained strong sexual descriptions. The Ginsberg and his poem were later subjected to an obscenity trial over the poem’s material, to which Ginsberg proclaimed his rights of free speech. The charges were ultimately dismissed, and Ginsberg remained a controversial and outspoken figure throughout the 50s and 60s.
October 8, 1779 – English poet and engraver William Blake entered into London’s Royal Academy to study art. While Blake studied art most of his life, he began pairing his art with his personal writings. Eventually his poetry made him even more famous. He is remembered among the greatest Romantic poets of all time.
October 9, 2012 – 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot by a member of the Taliban while riding a bus after taking exams. Malala’s activism for girls’ rights to education had angered the Taliban, and they intentionally sought her out and shot her in the head. She was rushed to the ICU where she was saved, and while she recovered she grew in fame, as did her noble cause. In 2012 she received the Nobel Peace Prize, and a year later she co-authored the memoir I am Malala, which remains a widely read work of non-fiction with adult and young adult readers.
October 10, 1906 – Author R. K. Narayan was born in Madras, India. His works, including The Financial Expert and The Guide were celebrated in India and made great advances in introducing Indian literature to worldwide readers. British author Graham Greene was his mentor and helped him become published in a global market.
October 11, 1885 – Francois Mauriac was born in Bordeaux. Mauriac was a novelist, poet, critic, and journalist who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1952. He is also remembered for his public rifts with major public figures, including Albert Camus, Roger Peyrefitte, and the Catholic church.
October 12, 1916 – Playwright and actress Alice Childress was born in Charleston, South Carolina. After launching a successful acting career, which included a Tony nomination for her role in Anna Lucasta, Childress wrote her first one-act play. She continued to balance acting and writing over a forty year career, penning ten plays in total. Many of her plays featured themes relating to interracial marriage and the beauty and power of black women.
October 13, 1962 – Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened at the Billy Rose Theater on Broadway. The play won the 1962 Tony for best play and was initially awarded the Pulitzer Prize in drama, until the advisory board retracted it based on the play’s profanity and sexual themes.
October 14, 1926 – A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh was published in both England and the United States after appearing in a Christmas story in London’s The Evening News. Pooh was immediately successful, and the rights of the character were eventually purchased by Disney. Winnie the Pooh is considered one of the most iconic and financially valuable fictional characters from, and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
October 15, 1952 – E. B. White published his children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web. The book is one of the most widely read children’s paperbacks, enjoyed by both children and adults alike.
October 16, 1847 – Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece Jane Eyre was published. The novel was originally published under the name Currer Bell and was negatively received, being criticized for anti-Christian themes, due to rebellious activities in a youth. Today, Jane Eyre is considered one of the most important and greatest British works of all time.
October 17, 1957 – French writer Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44. Camus is the second youngest writer to have been awarded this prize. He is best remembered for his absurdist plays, stories, and essays, including Rhinoceros and The Myth of Sisyphus. Sadly, Camus died only two years after receiving his Nobel when he was killed in a car accident.
October 18, 1775 – Phillis Wheatley, the first African American published poet, was set free by her slaveowners. As a child, Phillis was sold into the Wheatley family of Boston, who raised her and taught her to read and write. When her talents were discovered, the family encouraged her to write more and more, and even helped her become published. Her collection of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, was published in September of 1775. Once she found success in this publication she was emancipated by the Wheatley family.
October 19, 1950 – Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay died in Austerlitz, New York from a heart attack and fall down her stairs at home. Millay achieved fame as a 20-year-old when receiving fourth place in a prestigious poetry contest, despite being the clear frontrunner. She continued writing and publishing poetry, which evolved and exposed her feminist and pacifist beliefs. Today she is remembered as a leading poet of the 20th century.
October 20, 1955 – J.R.R. Tolkien published The Return of the King, his final installment of his Lord of the Rings series. The book and its series was called by critics “a masterpiece of prose.”
October 21, 1772 – British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devon, England. Coleridge and his close friend Wordsworth were the founders the Romantic movement, a type of poetry that focuses on the freedom of the individual and the power of individual emotions.
October 22, 1964 – Philosopher, novelist, and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre refused the Nobel Prize in Literature. When he was announced as a nominee for the prize, Sartre sent a letter warning that if he was awarded the prize he wouldn’t accept it. However, the letter was not read in time. Sartre felt that his Marxist and existentialist beliefs conflicted with what the Nobel Prize stood for. Furthermore, Sartre worried that the prestige that went along with the prize would change him, announcing, “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution.” The prize was not given to a different recipient.
October 23, 1844 – English poet laureate Robert Bridges was born in Kent, England. Bridges achieved literary fame later in his life, as he dedicated the first half of his life to his medical career as a doctor. Bridges’ poetry focused on his Christian faith and his unique study of rhythm and meter. He was also crucial to the posthumous publication of his college friend Gerard Manley Hopkins. Bridges served as the UK’s Poet Laureate from 1913 until his death in 1930.
October 24, 1904 – Playwright Moss Hart was born in New York City. Hart is remembered for his theater hits, including You Can’t Take it With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner, which he co-wrote with theater partner George S. Kaufman.
October 25, 1962 – American writer John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, a decision heavily criticized by literary critics. Even Steinbeck acknowledged that it was an honor he didn’t deserve, but he graciously accepted it as a gentleman.
October 26, 1822 – Danish fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen enrolled in grammar school at the age of 17. Due to a disruption in his schooling and circumstances that interrupted his education, Andersen was removed from school at 14 to pursue acting. When that failed he returned to school and had to study with mostly 11-year-olds, an experience that he hated. He later called his school years dark and bitter, recalling instructors that abused him and refused to let him write.
October 27, 1932 – American poet Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Despite literary and academic brilliance, Plath suffered from depression that first appeared during college, and during that time she attempted suicide. Plath went through six months of intensive therapy, including electroshock treatments, and was released. She later married British poet Ted Hughes and the couple had two children. After it was revealed that Hughes was having an affair, he and Plath separated and she moved into a residence formerly inhabited by W. B. Yeats. Sadly, Plath succumbed to her depression in February of 1963 when she killed herself. She was only 30 years old. Today her words are lasting and influential, both her poetry and her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar.
October 28, 1903 – Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was born in London, England. Waugh achieved fame through his writing, most prominently in his publication of his novel Brideshead Revisited, but both intrigued and upset people with his strong political and religious beliefs.
October 29, 1945 – The first ballpoint pen went on sale. Introduced as a cheaper and more convenient alternative to the fountain pen, it was László Bíró’s design that finally popularized the new writing tool, particularly designed for writing on different surfaces or on the go. Many notable writers have famously written with ballpoint pens, including Jack Kerouac and Margaret Atwood.
October 30, 1938 – Orson Welles caused hysteria and found new heights of acting fame after his impassioned radio performance of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds caused mass panic. Wells’ novel was performed for the Mercury Theater on the Air with a regular introduction to the show’s title and what it would be performing. However, the show made use of many interrupting radio bulletins which announced the arrival of the alien species as well as their growing violent actions. The numerous interrupting news bulletins caused a mass panic with listeners, who believed the fictitious events were really happening and were being reported in real time. As a result of this performance, the FCC banned fake radio news bulletins in order to stop this incident from ever happening again.
October 31, 1795 – Romantic poet John Keats was born in London, England. Keats’ life was cut short by his death from tuberculosis at 29, but in his four short years as a writer he earned a spot alongside Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron as second generation Romantic poets.
November 1, 1604 – Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello, the Moor of Venice, first premiered on stage in London. The play follows the undoing of the tragic hero, Othello, by the hand of Shakespeare’s most manipulative and masterful villain, Iago.
November 2, 1899 – Dutch writer Charles Edgar du Perron, known to his readers as E. du Perron, was born in the Dutch East Indies. Du Perron achieved writing fame in 1935 when he published Land of Origin, now considered to be his masterpiece.
November 3, 1793 – French author and playwright Olympe de Gouges was guillotined during the French Revolution. Gouges became “dangerous” to the Jacobins in power with her writings that advocated women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. After imprisonment for three months, during which she was not given the rights of an attorney, she was publicly executed. Gouges’ writings were said to be an important influence on Mary Wollstonecraft’s publication of The Vindication of the Rights of Women, an important feminist work.
November 4, 1899 – Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, an extensive treatise on dream analysis, psychoanalysis, and the Oedipus complex, was published. The first publication was of only 600 copies, which did not sell out for almost eight years. Despite its slow start, the book eventually became widely read and was re-printed seven times in Freud’s lifetime.
November 5, 1850: American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born in Johnstown, Wisconsin. Ella wrote poetry as a child and was first published in a local Wisconsin paper. Being unable to afford the paper’s subscription, she never even saw it in print, as the newspaper did not let her know when it would be published. As she grew older, Ella experimented with spiritualism and developed a modern, optimistic style of poetry. While you may not recognize her name, you may recognize some of her lines of poetry, which have become common aphorisms in American culture. These include “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone” and “Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.”
November 6, 1952: American author Michael Cunningham was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cunningham is best known for his novel The Hours, but he also experienced in writing poetry, prose, and drama.
November 7, 1913: Absurdist writer Albert Camus was born in French Algeria. Camus is remembered for his philosophical thoughts and foundation of absurdism, as well as his works The Myth of Sisyphus, The Stranger and The Plague. Camus was the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature and was killed in a car accident only two years later at the age of 46.
November 8, 1731: Benjamin Franklin founded The Library Company of Philadelphia, the first public library in America. It was based on membership, but nonmembers were welcome. They had to pay to check out a book, but upon returning the book their money was returned. The library still stands in Philadelphia, although it has grown, downsized, and moved several times in its almost three hundred year history.
November 9, 1953: Modernist poet Dylan Thomas died due to a severe case of bronchitis. The poet, who is most remembered for his poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” was only 39.
November 10, 1950: American author William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Although mostly unknown at the time of his award, Faulkner is now a pillar of American literature, with his novels Absolam! Absolam!, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and Light in August being widely read. His first ever published story, “A Rose for Emilly,” is also one of the most popular and widely taught short stories in ELA classes.
November 11, 1821: Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky was born in Moscow, Russia. Despite being imprisoned and nearly executed for supporting banned literature, Dostoevsky was released and eventually wrote novels such as Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky’s literature helped shape existentialist views and continue to be widely read to this day.
November 12, 2018 – Veteran’s Day – As we celebrate Veteran’s Day, we thank all of those who have served in the armed forces to protect and defend our country. In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’ve compiled a list of some American authors who have served in the armed forces:
1) Walt Whitman served as a Civil War nurse
2) E. E. Cummings volunteered as a World War I ambulance driver, captured and held prisoner in France
3) Ernest Hemingway served as a World War I ambulance driver, wounded while assisting men on the front line and awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery
4) Joseph Heller served in the U.S. Army Air Corp. during World War II
5) Norman Mailer served in World War II as a typist, wire lineman, and cook
6) J.D. Salinger served in World War II on Utah Beach on D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge
7) Gore Vidal enlisted in the army rather than going to college and served for three years as a warrant officer during World War II until he was reassigned to mess duty after a bad bout of hypothermia
8) Kurt Vonnegut served in the US Army, was taken captive in the Battle of the Bulge and survived the bombing of Dresden
9) Tim O’Brien was drafted into the Vietnam War. He fled to Canada to dodge the draft but changed his mind and returned in time to serve.
November 13, 1902 – Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is published as a stand-alone novella for the first time after being previously published in serialized form. The book raises questions about imperialism and is considered by many one of the best works published in the 20th century.
November 14, 1883 – Robert Louis Stevenson’s story Treasure Island was published as a stand-alone novel by Cassell & Co. The novel has had an enormous influence on both literature and culture, as it established popular “pirate” perceptions such as marking spots on a map with an X and one-legged pirates with parrots on their shoulders. The coming-of-age novel has been recreated and dramatized more than most other stories.
November 15, 1959 – Four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered in their home in Holcomb, Kansas. The brutal crime, which was seemingly done without motive, inspired Truman Capote to investigate. For years he reported on the investigation and extensively interviewed the two murderers. The material was eventually transformed into his groundbreaking work, In Cold Blood. This book mixed nonfiction with narrative style, resulting in a new genre which Capote dubbed “the nonfiction novel.”
November 16, 1922 – Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize winner José Saramago was born in Santarém, Portugal. Saramago is most famous for his novels The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, Blindness, and Death With Interruptions.
November 18, 1865 – Mark Twain published his short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” in the New York Saturday Press. The story was well-received and launched the American writer’s career in fiction.
November 19, 1919 – American expat Sylvia Beach established Shakespeare & Company, a bookstore and lending library in Paris. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound were frequent visitors of Shakespeare & Co. The store was closed during the German occupation of Paris in 1941, but George Whitman opened the store that is currently situated along the Seine just steps away from the Notre Dame in 1951. The store is unique as it employs aspiring writers in exchange for lodging, as they sleep in the small cots and beds situated between the shelves.
November 20, 1858 – Swedish teacher and author Selma Lagerlöf was born in Värmland, Sweden. Lagerlöf published her first novel at the age of 33 and she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909.
November 21, 1694 – French humorist, historian, and writer François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name as Voltaire, was born in Paris. Voltaire was a prolific writer of the French Enlightenment, penning over 20,000 letters and 2000 books and pamphlets on many social subjects, including the separation of church and state and freedom of speech.
November 22, 1819 – Mary Anne Evans, known by her pen name as George Eliot, was born in Warwickshire, England. Eliot was a leading voice of the Victorian period and her novels Middlemarch, Silas Marner, and The Mill on the Floss are still widely read today.
November 23, 1644 – John Milton published Areopagitica, a historic pamphlet decrying censorship. The publication, which was meant for distribution in pamphlet form, was actually recited orally before an assembly of Parliament in effort to defeat the Licensing Order of 1643. Milton wrote, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” Although Milton was unsuccessful in defeating the Order, his statements about freedom of speech have become fundamental truths in which many justice systems have been built on.
November 24, 1947 – John Steinbeck’s The Pearl was published. The Pearl is a popular Steinbeck text in high school classrooms because it is simple but still functions as a parable.
November 25, 1970 – Japanese author Kimitake Hiraoka committed suicide by the ritual known as seppuku. Hirakoa became famous for his novels Confessions of a Mask and The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, even becoming a finalist for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He became involved in his own branch of Japanese militia and attempted a coup against the Japanese government. After the coup attempt failed, Hiraoka immediately performed the ritualistic suicide. Afterward, details convinced many that the coup attempt was done more as an excuse for Hiraoka to commit the ritualistic suicide, which he had been planning and envisioning for years.
November 26, 1865 – Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in America for the first time. Carroll’s short and treasured story has been a beloved children’s favorite, and to this day the book has never been out of print.
November 27, 1909 – American author James Agee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. Agee was a writer and screenwriter, making a living through reviews and freelance writing throughout his lifetime. Agee began working on his autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family, more than a decade before his death at the age of 45. After he died, Agee’s friend published the novel posthumously. The novel brought Agee fame he never experienced in his lifetime and even won him the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, awarded posthumously to his family.
November 28, 1582 – Today is the believed anniversary of William Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway. The two married under scandalous circumstances, as she was pregnant and eight years older than Shakespeare. They lived separately for most of their lives, as Shakespeare worked in London while Hathaway remained in Stratford with their family.
November 29, 1898 – British author Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland. C.S. Lewis is best remembered as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as his Christian works Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.
November 30 – Today is a big birthday for authors! Jonathan Swift, the Irish satirist and author was born in Dublin in 1667. American author Mark Twain, known best for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was born in 1835 in Missouri. Finally, Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables series, was born in Toronto, Canada in 1874.
December 1, 1887 – The first Sherlock Holmes story appeared in print. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet first appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, generating little public interest. Eventually, however, the duo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson became literature’s favorite detective duo.
December 2, 1950 – Isaac Asimov published I, Robot, his collection of science fiction stories, containing the famous Three Laws of Robotics.
December 3, 1926 – Mystery writer Agatha Christie disappeared without explanation for eleven days. Christie took off after the pronouncement that her husband, Archie, was leaving her to marry his mistress. Despite her fame and the public concern over her disappearance, she wasn’t found for eleven days, when she was discovered at a small hotel registered in her husband’s lover’s name. She gave no explanation to her disappearance in any interviews or in her autobiography. Many theories went out over her disappearance, including mental illness, amnesia, or more sensational ones such as publicity stunts or plots for her husband’s murder.
December 4, 1878 – British author Bram Stoker married Florence Balcombe. Florence, a former romantic companion to Oscar Wilde, shared a presumably happy life with Stoker and acted as the executor of his written works after his death in 1912.
December 5, 1830 – Poet Christina Rossetti was born in London. Rossetti is best remembered for her Romantic poetry, as well as several Christmas carols and poems for children.
December 6, 1933 – The 12-year ban on James Joyce’s Ulysses was lifted in America. The book was originally banned in 1921 after a trial deemed the book obscene. Some US post offices even burned the book ceremoniously after this judgment.
December 7, 1995 – Irish poet Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in Stockholm, Sweden. Heaney remains a popular and cherished poet, especially as a regional writer of Ireland.
December 8, 1915 – John McCrae’s war poem “In Flanders Fields” appeared anonymously in Punch magazine. McCrae composed the poem after officiating for the burial of fellow soldier and close friend Alexis Helmer. He noticed how poppies tended to grow quickly around new graves, creating one of the most lasting remembrance images for World War I soldiers.
December 9, 1854 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “Charge of the Light Brigade,” was published in The Examiner. The poem was published only six weeks after the ill-fated soldiers of the Crimean War were defeated, as described in the poem.
December 10, 1986 – Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to literature, particularly with the publication of his memoir, Night. The Nobel committee called Wiesel a “messenger to mankind” spreading a message “of peace, atonement, and human dignity.”
December 11, 1801 – German playwright Christian Dietrich Grabbe was born in Detmold. Grabbe found publishing success with his dramatic partner Georg Büchner, but struggled with alcoholism and failed love affairs. He died from his addictions at the age of 34. Today he is remembered as Germany’s “Drunken Shakespeare.”
December 12, 1889 – British poet and playwright Robert Browning died in Venice. He was buried in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey next to Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
December 13, 1797 – German poet Heinrich Heine was born in Düsseldorf. Heine is best remembered for his lyric poetry and has withstood the test of time, despite Nazi efforts to discredit him because of his Jewish heritage.
December 14, 1916 – Celebrated American author Shirley Jackson was born in San Francisco. Jackson is best known to students and teachers for her short story “The Lottery” but in her career she penned six novels, two memoirs, and over 200 short stories.
December 15, 1896 – American novelist Betty Smith was born in Brooklyn, NY. She is best remembered for her best-selling novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
December 16, 1917 – Science fiction author and inventor Arthur C. Clarke was born in Somerset, England. Clarke was made famous for the publication of his novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke also wrote the screenplay for the novel, creating a movie that has been considered one of the most important films in history. Aside from writing, Clarke enjoyed learning about space exploration, future technology, and ocean diving. He was knighted in 2000 for his services to literature.
December 17, 1807 – Fireside poet John Greenleaf Whittier was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Wittier is best known for his anti-slavery poems and his collection of poems, Snow-Bound.
December 18, 1870 – Hector Hugh Munro, better known by the pen name Saki, was born in British-occupied Burma. Saki is one of the leading writers of the short story and wrote with a satirical wit. Saki enlisted in the first world war, although he was officially too old to fight, and frequently fought when he was considered too ill or injured. He died bravely on the battlefield in France and has no known grave.
December 19, 1843 – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was self-published after a disagreement with his previous publisher. After a rocky start, including the publication of an illicit version of the book, Dickens found commercial and critical success with the story. To this date it has never been out of print.
December 20, 1812 – Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm published their collection of 86 fairy tales in Germany. Their first printing was so successful that they expanded their collection and the second printing contained 212 fairy tales, including popular stories such as Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, and Cinderella.
December 21, 1940 – American author F. Scott Fitzgerald died from a heart attack in his home in Hollywood. Fitzgerald was a notorious alcoholic and had been having chest pains and dizzy spells for several days. Despite having two heart attacks prior, he did not seek medical care. He was 44 years old when he died.
December 22, 1849 – Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky was spared at the last minute from public execution. Dostoevsky and several other men were arrested in April of that year for reading and circulating illicit literature. The men were sentenced to public execution and lined up against a wall. The czar commuted their sentence the day before but did not publicize this information. Instead, as the time for their execution was counted down, the drummer did not beat time for the last second. At that time it was announced that the men’s lives were being spared. This was not done as an act of mercy, but instead as a demonstration of fear. Dostoevsky and the men were not pardoned for their crimes but instead served four years in labor camps in Siberia.
December 23, 1823 – A poem titled “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” was published anonymously in the Troy Herald. The poem was later called “The Night Before Christmas” and became one of the most popular and well-known poems in American history. Furthermore, it established many customs of American gift-giving, as well as setting a standardized image of Santa for future generations. Because the poem was published anonymously, it also sparked an ongoing debate on its authorship, with most naming the author as Clement Clark Moore, a professor living in New York City. However, there are scholars who believe that Henry Livingston Jr., a Bible scholar, was the true author.
December 23, 1815 – Jane Austen’s novel Emma was published in London. The book was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews, despite Austen’s worry that readers would not like her headstrong and spoiled heroine. Emma was the last book Austen published before her death, with Persuasion being published posthumously.
December 24, 1973 – Stephenie Meyer, author of young adult bestselling series Twilight, was born in Hartford Connecticut. Meyer’s success with Twilight was truly a rare phenomenon, as she had had no education or experience in writing, and before composing the novel had never even written a short story before.
December 25, 1962 – The film To Kill a Mockingbird was released in theaters to universal praise, receiving eight Oscar nominations, including a win for Gregory Peck for Best Actor. The movie was a triumphant depiction of the novel, particularly Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch. At Peck’s funeral in 2003, Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson in the film, eulogized him. He said, “Atticus Finch gave him an opportunity to play himself.”
December 26, 1944 – Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie premiered in Chicago. Although the play had a slow start, several prominent critics from Chicago praised it enough to get it moved to New York to premier on Broadway, eventually making it a commercial and critical success. The play was Tennessee Williams’ first successful show, launching his prominent theater career.
December 27, 1913 – Poet and author Elizabeth Smart was born in Ottowa, Ontario. Smart was moved by the poetry of George Barker as a young woman and took great efforts to meet him, saying she wanted to marry him. She even saved up money to fly Barker and his wife to Canada from Japan, where they had been living. Soon after, she and Barker began an affair, which lasted for decades and produced four children. Smart’s parents took great efforts to stop this affair, even convincing Canadian officials to ban Barker from entering the country. Smart is best remembered for her prose poetry novel By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, reflecting on the feelings she had at her parents keeping her lover away from her.
December 28, 1897 – Edmond Rostand’s play Cyrano de Bergerac premiered in Paris. Cyrano de Bergerac was a real dramatist and famous duelist who lived in the 17th century, but Rostand embellished facts about his life when using his likeness in his play. The plot of the play centers on Cyrano de Bergerac, a talented poet and fencer, who is tragically cursed with an extremely large nose. He falls in love with Roxane, the most beautiful and charming woman in town, but cannot express his feelings face to face as he is so sure he will be rejected. He eventually uses the beautiful but idiotic Christian as his mouthpiece in wooing Roxane. Cyrano’s debut was so successful that it is said that the audience applauded a full hour after the final curtain fell.
December 29, 1894 – British poet Christina Rossetti lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 64.
December 30, 1865 – Author Rudyard Kipling was born in British-occupied Bombay, India. He is best remembered for his popular children’s book, The Jungle Book. In 1902 Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, and was at the time the youngest recipient to date. Kipling’s memory has tarnished since then, with many writers accusing him of cultural insensitivity and imperialism.
December 31, 1878 – Writer and playwright Horacio Quiroga was born in Salto, Uruguay. Quiroga was influenced by Poe in his depictions of madness and psychological horrors, and his stories went on to influence the magical realists of Latin America.
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