Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland appeared in 1577. This history was Shakespeare’s source for much of Macbeth, King Lear, and Cymbeline. Holinshed died about 1580.
Henry Fielding (1707-54) called the novel a “comic-epic poem in prose”, in the preface to his 1742 novel Joseph Andrews.
The first complete English translation of the Bible was the Bible of 1380, translated into a Midland dialect by Nicholas of Hereford and others. It is often called the Wyclif Bible, though theologian John Wyclif (c. 1320-84) did not work on it.
The young man Cheri is having an affair with is the aging courtesan Leonie Vallon, more commonly known as Lea de Lonval, or just Lea, in Colette’s Cheri.
Sappho (b. 612 B.C.), a lyric poet whose work exists only in fragments, was called the “tenth muse” by some classical writers. Married, she lived in Lesbos and led a group of women who were devoted to music and poetry.
Considered the oldest full novel in the world, The Tale of Genji was written in Japan toward the start of the eleventh century.
The name of Miss Havisham’s house in Dickens’s Great Expectations is Satis House.
The alternative title to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was The Modern Prometheus.
Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne are buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Massachusetts.
Edward Stratemeyer, under the pseudonym Victor Appleton created Tom Swift.
Hemingway’s alter ego Nick Adams, the central figure of In Our Time (1924), makes his first appearance in “Indian Camp” (1923).
The title character of the 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf is named Clarissa.
Taken from the Greek word semeion, or “sign,” the term “semiotics” had its origins early in the twentieth century, when French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and American philosopher C. S. Peirce called for a new science of signs. Saussure called the discipline “semiology”; Peirce called it “semiotic.” Since then, semiotics as the study of cultural […]
Judas received thirty pieces of silver for betraying Christ. In Matthew’s Gospel, Judas throws away the money and hangs himself after the betrayal.
Stradlater was the rich and conceited roommate of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.
Thirty-three of these poems in honor of various Greek gods survive. Written in imitation of Homer, they date from the eighth century B.C. to the fifth or fourth century B.C.
The wits who traded barbs at New York’s Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s included: Franklin P. Adams, Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun, Frank Case, Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman, Harpo Marx, Neysa McMein, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Robert E. Sherwood, and Alexander Woollcott. The Algonquin Hotel still stands. It was recently sold to a group of […]
Henry Miller was married four times.
The author of the novels Song of Solomon (1977) and Beloved (1987) Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford.
The name of the minor-league team in Mark Harris’s Bang the Drum Slowly is The New York Mammoths. The novel’s narrator is Henry Wiggen, star pitcher for the Mammoths.
Daniel Defoe based The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719-20) on the real-life story of Alexander Selkirk (1676-1721), a Scottish sailor who survived for more than four years on the desert island of Juan Fernandez off the Chilean coast. He became a celebrity after his rescue and homecoming in 1709.
The name of the lover in D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover was Oliver Mellors, gamekeeper for Lady Chatterley’s husband.
In the 1898 essay “What is Art?” Leo Tolstoy defines art as: “a human activity, consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings, and also experience them.”
For nearly ten years the short story writer Guy de Maupassant apprenticed himself to Flaubert to learn to write fiction.
Only Good Deeds goes with Everyman to face Judgment. In the 1495 morality play, Everyman is deserted by Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five Wits.
Mary McCarthy’s 1963 novel The Group concerns eight women students at Vassar. Their names are: Dottie, Helena, Kay, Lakey, Libby, Pokey, Polly, and Priss.
Eugene O’Neill won four Pulitzer prizes, for Beyond the Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1922), Strange Interlude (1928), and Long Day’s Journey into Night (1957).
In the Old English poem Beowulf (eighth cent.), Beowulf came from The Geats, a Scandinavian people.
In October 1849, the forty-year-old writer Edgar Allan Poe was found lying unconscious near a polling place in Baltimore. According to some reports, he had been fed liquor and dragged to various polling places to vote repeatedly. He was taken to a hospital where he remained semicomatose for three days. On October 7, 1849, at […]
The male advice columnist Miss Lonelyhearts wrote for the New York Post-Dispatch in Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts (1946).
The Koran existed first in oral form as a series of revelations recited by the prophet Muhammad (570-632), founder of Islam. His followers wrote down or committed to memory the individual surahs, or chapters, but these were not collected in authoritative form until about 650.
Tobias Smollett created Roderick Random, in The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748).
C. J. Koch’s The Year of Living Dangerously is set in 1965, the year of Suharto’s overthrow of Sukarno’s Indonesian government.
What family’s and what village’s history are recounted in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1970)?
The novel One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the village of Macondo.
The full title of Oliver Twist is Oliver Twist, or, The Parish Boy’s Progress.
Said’s real name was H. H. Munro (1870-1916). The Scottish fiction writer and playwright was born in Burma and killed by a sniper in France during World War I.
Mother Goose first appeared in Charles Perrault’s Mother Goose Tales (1697), a collection of popular folk stories. She is depicted at the front of the book in an illustration of an old woman telling tales by firelight to children.
A closet drama is a play, usually in verse, written for private reading rather than performance. Byron’s Manfred (1817) and Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound (1820) are examples.
The Biltmore Hotel in New York City threw out newlyweds F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre, following their wedding on April 3, 1920. The management asked them to leave because of their unseemly behavior.
Professor James Moriarty, “the Napoleon of Crime,” was killed. Moriarty and Holmes, locked in combat, fell over the edge of the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. Amazingly, Holmes survived.
The surname of the Columbia professor Edward Said who wrote Orientalism (1978) and The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983) is pronounced SAH-eed. The surname of the Columbia professor who wrote Orientalism (1978) and The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983) is pronounced SAH-eed.
How many deceased inhabitants of Spoon River recite their verse epitaphs in Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology (1915)?
Two hundred and forty-four deceased inhabitants of Spoon River recite their verse epitaphs in Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology.
Paul Clifford (1830) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton novel begins, “It was a dark and stormy night”. It is also the opening line of numerous novels by Snoopy.
One of the earliest and most influential American magazine editors, Sarah Josepha Hale wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in 1830. In addition to founding the first national women’s magazine, Godey’s Ladies’Magazine, and successfully campaigning to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, she was inspired to write the rhyme by an actual case of a child’s […]
Sir Edward Dyer said, “My mind to me a kingdom is” in his 1588 poem of the same name.
The alienated artist never discovered food that he enjoyed, so he starves to death in Franz Kafka’s short story “The Hunger Artist.”
Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919) comprised of twenty-three stories.
Henry James created Roderick Hudson, in the 1876 novel of the same name.
Ernest Hemingway was married four times.
Dr. Faustus, the scholar who sells his soul to Satan is torn apart by devils at the end of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus.
George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess is based on Porgy (1925), by Du Bose Heyward. Heyward and his wife, Dorothy, won a Pulitzer prize for their dramatic version of the novel. Porgy is a crippled beggar and gambler who lives on Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. Bess is his drug-addicted mistress.
The play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw ends with Eliza Doolittle asserting her humanity and rejecting Henry Higgins. But the 1938 movie ending, approved by Shaw, brought the pair together. The musical version, My Fair Lady (1956), also had a happy ending.
Hamartia is the fatal flaw that brings a good character to ruin. Hubris is pride, the classic example of hamartia.
Sir Philip Sidney suffered a mortal wound in The Battle of Zutphen in 1586. The author of Arcadia (1590) was fighting in the Netherlands against the Spanish. He was shot in the thigh after lending his leg armor to another soldier. He died of infection three weeks later, at the age of thirty-two.
The Charles Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby (1838-390) exposed the “ragged schools” and helped get them abolished.
What author said of what work, “I have protracted my work til most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds: I therefore dismiss it with frigid tranquility, having little to fear or hope from censure or from praise”?
Dr. Samuel Johnson said it of his dictionary in “Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language” (1747-55).
Chaucer’s pilgrims are going to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the shrine of Thomas a Becket, former archbishop of Canterbury. Becket had been assassinated in the cathedral in 1170, following a political disagreement with King Henry II. Pilgrimage to the shrine was a popular journey at the time the Tales were written (c. 1387-1400).
The first published work of the poet and novelist Alice Walker was a book of poetry: Once: Poems (1968). She followed up soon after, however, with a novel: The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970).
Aeneas descends into the underworld in book VI of XII of Vergil’s Aeneid.
The first sentence of Herman Melville’s Moby Diek was “Call me Ishmael.”