Tuesday, 21 December 2010
On this day...Romantic poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy moved into Dove Cottage in 1799. The previous autumn had seen the pair in Germany, along with fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. One of his many trips to Europe, Wordsworth was reportedly homesick and thus it was in 1799 that he moved back to the Lake District - the region in which he grew up. His work at this time comprised of 'The Lucy Poems', a series of five poems later included in his 'Lyrical Ballads' collection. Living near Coleridge and Robert Southey, the trio became collectively known as the 'Lake Poets'.
Monday, 20 December 2010
To celebrate Christmas, Carol Ann Duffy has release a new collection. 'The Manchester Carols', modernising and changing the traditional favourites is a collaborative work with Sasha Johnson Manning, performed by the National Chamber Orchestra. Here is a podcast of the Poet Laureate and other potential literary Christmas presents.
On this day...English playwright John Fletcher was baptised in 1579. The son of a cleric, who later became chaplain to Queen Elizabeth, Fletcher was a child prodigy and entered Cambridge University at the age of 11. Despite this start, little is known of Fletcher throughout his education until he reappeared as a writer for the Children of the Queen's Revels, and a performer at Blackfriars Theatre.
Fletcher's best known works are as a collaborator, especially with Francis Beaumont, such as 'The Maid's Tragedy' and 'Philaster'. So close was their relationship, that they were purported to live in the same house, share each other's clothes and even had 'one wench in the house between them'. Their partnership ended with Beaumont's marriage in 1613, and Fletcher's illness in the same year. Subsequently he became a more firm fixture with the King's Men, collaborating with Shakespeare on 'Henry VIII' and 'The Two Noble Kinsmen'. Fletcher continued to write for the company as a solo playwright after Shakespeare's death, returning to collaboration shortly before his own. One of the most important dramatists of the era, Fletcher died in 1625, at the age of 45.
Friday, 17 December 2010
A rare first edition of Ian Fleming's 'Casino Royale' has fetched £19,000 at auction. Fleming's first James Bond novel, the 1953 copy sold for £4,000 more than expected, and £13,000 more than another of Fleming's Bond books, 'Live and Let Die'. The selling price was only £3,000 less than the highest price for a Bond first edition - coming in closely behind a signed copy of 'From Russia with Love'.
On this day...Leo Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' was sold by the 'Moscow News' in 1867. The now famous literary work was listed thus; 'War and Peace. By Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy. Four volumes (80 sheets). Price: 7 rubles. Weight parcel post: 5 pounds. The first three volumes delivered with a coupon for the fourth'. It seems strange the the novel was so lightly offloaded, considering that that the book was 'five years of unremitting and singleminded labour,' something 'not simply imagined by [Tolstoy] but torn out of [his] cringing entrails'. However, these efforts were soon rewarded when the novel became known as Tolstoy's masterpiece.
Monday, 13 December 2010
Some are tucked away in the cobbled streets of villages, others stand as magnificent structures in grand public squares, and some even take to the road, traversing the English countryside. Libraries exist in every community, but they also exist in many of the fictional works they stock. Here is a quiz on their place in literature
On this day...American crime fiction writer Kenneth Millar, better known by pseudonym Ross Macdonald, was born in 1915. By the time he was 16, having been abandoned by his father, and moved around the country to stay with various relatives, Macdonald had gained enough experience of broken relationships and domestic troubles for them to become a prominent theme in his later writings.
Tragedy also struck later in his life, when Macdonald sadly lost his daughter Linda in 1970. Excluding a brief period in which he was involved in the war as a naval communications officer, Macdonald produced a steady stream of great novels, including his famous Lew Archer series. Inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald among others, he is said to be the heir to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler as the master of the American hardboiled mysteries.
Monday, 6 December 2010
A previously unknown poem by Philip Larkin, has been found in a shoebox. Found by producer Simon Pass amdist internal Hull University communications, 'Dear Jake' is an address to secretary Betty Makereth - one of the three affairs that shaped Larkin's writings. Former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, who was the first to uncover the lovers' relationship in a 1993 biography, said that the poem is ' a little, new piece of the jigsaw, which gives a very sweet and touching picture of this episode of his life'. The manuscript was found with a card from Larkin, explaining that it should be read alongside his 1968 poem 'Posterity' and saying, 'This is for you. You can sell it later on'.
On this day...American inventor Thomas Edison recorded one of the earliest recordings of the human voice in 1877. Known as the 'Wizard of Menlo Park' for his phonograph invention, Edison used tinfoil and a grooved cylinder to record poor quality sounds. The recordings could only be played several times, and the phonograph was redesigned a decade later by Alexander Graham Bell using wax-coated cardboard cylinders. Yet the occasion of Edison's remarkable breakthrough in 1877, was marked by him reciting 'Mary Had a Little Lamb', which can be heard here.
Although this has obviously had an incredible impact on modern society, the Poetry Archive is one small example of how it has furthered literature. Set up by former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, the site contains recordings of poets reading their own work, including names such as Alfred Lord Tennyson and Seamus Heaney. Motion created it with the thought that any lover of literature is able to gain deeper insight , levels of understanding, and enjoyment by listening to a poem in the voice in which it was composed.
Thursday, 2 December 2010
For the first time, a book of poetry has won the Dylan Thomas Prize. 'Clamor', written by American Elyse Fenton, is based on the fragments of instant messaging conversations she managed to share with her medic husband, while he was deployed in Iraq. The work, triumphing over writings by names such as Caroline Bird and Nadifa Mohammed, was praised by judge Peter Florence as 'a great winner...an astonishing, fully accomplished book of huge ambition and spectacular delivery'. The prize is awarded to the best eligible published or produced literary work in the English language, written by an author under 30. Fenton, who has been holding creative writing workshops for students in Wales for the last week, becomes the third winner and the recipient of £30,000.
On this day...Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge joined the cavalry in 1793. Using the false name, 'Silas Tomkyn Comberbache', Coleridge had quit his university education to enlist in the Royal Dragoons, with speculation suggesting it was either due to rising debt, or rejection from a girl that he loved.
Thought to subsequently suffer from about of severe depression, he was discharged with the help of his brothers on the grounds of 'insanity'. He was readmitted to Cambridge, and it was there that his great literary career began to blossom.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
As surely as night follows day, so World Book Night will try to emulate the success of World Book Day. The latter is already an established part of the literary calender, as each year tokens are given to school children to redeem on over 600,000 specially-published titles. Yet the new initiative will instead be aimed at adults, with the aim of providing them with 'an accessible work of enduring quality'.
20,000 people will be able to sign up to be a 'giver', and they will be able to chose a title to give away from list, including writers such as Carol Ann Duffy, John le Carre and Margaret Atwood. The 'givers' will be able to donate 48 copies of their chosen title, meaning that almost 1 million books will be given away altogether. Atwood hailed the move, saying that she was 'amazed not only by its magnitude but by its simplicity. The love of writing, the love of reading – these are huge gifts. To be able to give someone else a book you treasure widens the gift circle'.
World Book Night will be held on March 5th 2011.
On this day...A draft of Victor Hugo's 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' was due in 1830. The original publishers, Gosselin, had already agreed with Hugo that the book would be finished in 1829 - the year in which he had started writing it. However, the huge demand for other projects, including the premiere of his drama 'Hernani', had hindered Hugo, and so the completion of the work was delayed. Put out, the publishers delievered an ultimatum, demanding the book be completed by February of 1831.
Thus it is said that Hugo, settling down with a new bottle of ink, refused to leave his house, apart from nightly visits to the cathedral, until the work was finished. It was finally pulished in January 1831, and has proved one of France's most popular books, become a literary classic all over the world, and even led to major renovations at the Notre Dame cathedral itself.