Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy birthday, William Shakespeare

It is the 450th birthday of playwright William Shakespeare, whom scholars consider the greatest writer in the English language. Here are links to a handful of interesting articles about the Bard of Avon, not the least of which is the recent discovery of a dictionary that might have belonged to him. Enjoy!

The Atlantic: Booksellers say they got Shakespeare's Personal Dictionary on eBay
Sydney Morning Herald: Booksellers claim Shakespeare's annotated dictionary
UK Metro: If Shakespeare had Twitter 

The Independent: 50 everyday phrases that came from the Bard  

Huffington Post: Shakespeare at 450

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy birthday, novelist Henry Fielding

It is the birthday of English writer Henry Fielding (1707), whose most famous novel, Tom Jones (1749) was written after a successful career as a playwright, novelist, jurist, and magistrate. Much of his work satirized contemporary English life. Tom Jones concerns comic exploits of a lusty young man who was found by a wealthy country gentleman and raised from infancy. His apparent low class origins prevents his developing a budding romance with a wealthy neighbor’s daughter. The book was  full of sexual promiscuity and quite unusual for the era in which it was published. Sir Walter Scott called Fielding the father of the English novel. Fielding and his brother, John, also founded London’s first police force, the Bow Street Runners, in 1749.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy birthday, naturalist John Muir

Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir on Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park (1906).
It is the birthday of naturalist John Muir (1838), who founded the Sierra Club and helped preserve Sequoia National Park and Yosemite Valley in the West, and influenced President Theodore Roosevelt to protect other vast wilderness areas. In 1867, Muir set out on a wilderness walk from Indiana to Florida. He ended up at Cedar Key, where he began working at a sawmill. He nearly died of malaria there but recovered and took a ship to Cuba. His journal was published as A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916) two years after his death. Muir wrote extensively about the wilderness and the importance of preservation, including Our National Parks (1901), My First Summer in the Sierra (1911), and The Yosemite (1912). 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy birthday, Texas hero Deaf Smith

It is the birthday of Texas revolutionary hero Deaf Smith (1787), whose intelligence gathering during the Texas war for independence helped lead to the victory over the Mexican Army and the establishment of the Republic of Texas. At first Smith, who had settled in the San Antonio area after moving from Mississippi in the early 1820s, refused to become involved in the growing dispute between the Mexican government and Texian settlers. But when he returned from a hunting trip and Mexican soldiers wouldn’t let him return to his home, Smith was furious. He joined the Texian Army and spent the rest of the war spying on the Mexicans. Later, he formed a company of Texas Rangers.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy birthday, George Henry Lewes

It is the birthday of English philosopher and critic George Henry Lewes (1817), who flouted Victorian social norms and openly lived with author George Eliot, though were never married. Lewes had an open marriage with his wife, Agnes. Lewes went to Germany with Marian Evans (who later wrote under the name George Eliot) to do research. Evans considered the trip a honeymoon, and afterward, referred to Lewes as her husband. Lewes wrote about theater, literature, science, and philosophy. His most well-known books are The Biographical History of Philosophy (1846) and Life of Goethe (1855).

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