July 11: E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little and one of America’s premier essayists was born in Mount Vernon, New York on this day in 1899.  E.B. stands for Elwyn Brooks and journalists are forever indebted to White and his co-writer William Strunk for a privately published book The Elements of Style which first appeared in 1918, a book many journalism profs recommend we read yearly.

July 12: Geoffrey Chaucer, a page in the court of King Richard III was appointed to the position of chief clerk on this day in 1389. When he died ten years later in 1399, only 22 of his Canterbury Tales had been completed. Chaucer had originally intended to include 120 stories of the pilgrimage to Canterbury by a mixed group of noblemen and peasants in his compilation.

July 13: Poet William Wordsworth was inspired to write “Tintern Abbey” on this day in 1798 while out on a walk with his sister Dorothy to visit the ruins first built in 1131 in the village of Tintern on the border between Wales and England. Painter J.M.W. Turner also painted the ruins and Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote the poem “Tears, Idle Tears” after visiting there. Tintern Abbey begins: “I cannot paint/What then I was” and Wordsworth had claimed that he composed the poem entirely in his head and continued rambling about it to his sister as they walked.

July 14: Five years before he’s forced to flee England over the scandal of his suspected relationship with his half-sister, Lord Byron returns to England on this day in 1811 after a two year tour of Europe. A year later, in 1812, his book Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was published to instant acclaim.

July 15: At age 44, Anton Pavlovich Chechov, one of the greatest short-story writers of all time, dies of tuberculosis. His works inspired such great short story writers from Raymond Carver to Alice Munro. His wife Olga recalled Chekhov’s last minutes: “‘Ich sterbe (I’m dying).’ The doctor calmed him, took a syringe, gave him an injection of camphor and ordered champagne…’It’s a long time since I drank champagne.’ He drained it, lay quietly…and stopped breathing.”

July 16: The 31-year-old J.D. Salinger perfectly captures the confusion of teenager Holden Caufield in The Catcher in the Rye which is published on this day in 1951. The book was originally published for adults but became popular among adolescents. More than 65 million copies of it have been sold worldwide.

July 17: Punch Magazine, the British humour magazine, first published on this day in 1841, and got its title from an early meeting in which the founders said the magazine should be like a “good Punch mixture–nothing without Lemon” (a reference to Mark Lemon, the magazine’s first editor.) The magazine published everyone from Thackeray to P J O’Rourke) and closed in 2002.

July 18: Thirteen years before he is elected president, a little-known University of Chicago law professor wrote his memoir “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” which was published on this day in 1995. Barack Obama received a reported $40,000 advance for his memoir after being contacted by a literary agent after he became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990.


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