Love, Sex, Death & Words: Surprising Tales From a Year in Literature
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Why was publication of Huckleberry Fin delayed until February 18, 1885? Which great literary love affair came to a tragic end on February 11, 1963? What effect did March 19, 2007 have on Philip Roth’s alter ego? Arranged by days of the year, Love, Sex, Death & Words provides an absorbing companion to literature’s inspiring past.
John Sutherland is a recently retired professor of English literature at University College London, and a past chairman of the Booker Prize panel.
Stephen Fender was born in San Francisco and educated at Stanford and in the United Kingdom. He has taught in the United States at Santa Clara, Williams, and Dartmouth colleges.
December last’, reported the paper’s anonymous correspondent, ‘is only three feet below the surface in a strata [sic] of soft sand rock.’ The same vein, between twelve and eighteen feet deep, runs at least twelve miles to the south and five to the north, he continued, so that ‘I would predict for California a Peruvian harvest of the precious metals, as soon as a sufficiency of miners, &c., can be obtained’. Nearly right. On 24 January 1848 (not the preceding December), James Marshall was
first official Poet Laureate, and the only one – so far – to be sacked. His pay was a pension of £300 (£34,322 or $55,603 in today’s money), plus one butt of Canary wine per year. A butt is a barrel big enough to drown a man in, as is clear from Richard III. It holds 476 litres, or 210 imperial (252 US) gallons. This was a lot more than later emoluments. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (laureate from 1843–50) got £72 a year in cash and another £27 ‘in lieu of the butt of sack’. Andrew Motion (1999–2009)
previous evening: I picked up a girl in the Strand; went into court with intention to enjoy her in armour. But she had none. I toyed with her. She wondered at my size, and said if I ever took a girl’s maidenhead, I would make her squeal. I gave her a shilling, and had command enough of myself to go without touching her. I afterwards trembled at the danger I escaped. By ‘danger’, of course, Boswell means venereal disease. No member, whatever its size, could hold out against the clap in
philosopher as well as a toweringly great writer, they make a fitting epitaph. There have, however, been contradictions to this most perfect of valedictions. It is suggested that what Goethe actually said was: ‘Open the second shutter, so that more light may come in’ (some versions have ‘second blind’ – the exact domestic layout of Goethe’s death chamber is not recorded). The central element is there (‘more light’) but the instruction is anything but lofty. Banal even. More so in the original
so, the colonial militias and irregulars would have to be warned. When the British marched westwards, how would they go – directly across the Charles River or via the longer land route south, then west? When it was clear that they were going via the river, Revere and William Dawes rode off at speed for Lexington and (if possible) Concord. In case they were captured, Revere had instructed the sexton of the Old North Church, Boston to hang one lantern in the steeple if the occupying army were going