Oct. 13: In 1686, wigmaker and bookseller Allan Ramsay was born in Lanarkshire and later start Scotland’s first lending library around 1720 in Edinburgh. Today, the National Library of Scotland has one of the world’s best digital archives all housed in an airy, modern building. The John Murray archives documents 200 years of publishing history including letters and exchanges with Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austen. Well worth a visit. In Glasgow, the Mitchell Library is grand, lovely building with certain wings first constructed in the 19th century. It is Europe’s largest public reference library with 1.2 million volumes and the world’s biggest collection of Robert Burns materials. I spent too brief a time there last June but one of my favourite mementoes, which I carry with me, is my very own Glasgow public library card.

Oct. 14: In Cambridge, Mass. 1894, E.E. Cummings, who is showing up everywhere in the Dylan Thomas biography I’m re-reading, was born. Cummings, was once arrested for treason for letters he wrote home while serving as an ambulance driver in France during the First World War.

Oct. 15: Economist John Kenneth Galbraith, author of The Affluent Society was born in 1908 in Dutton Ontario where a library is named after him.

Oct. 16: Oscar Wilde is born in Dublin on this day in 1854. If you want to live where he lived, head to the Cadogan Hotel in London and stay at the Oscar Wilde suite. A replica purple velvet jacket is in the closet. Wilde was arrested for indecency while he was living at the Cadogan.

Oct. 17: On this day in 1827 in Edinburgh, Thomas Carlyle marries muse Jane Welsh, the Jenny of Leigh Hunt’s poem: “Say I’m growing old, but add, Jenny kissed me.” The marriage will end up being so tempestuous that Samuel Butler commented how fortunate it was that they should marry because it made only two people miserable instead of four.

Oct. 18: The Seagull premiered to disastrous reviews in St. Petersburg on this day in 1896, prompting Anton Chekhov to vow he will never write again for the stage.

Oct. 19: George Eliot and George Henry Lewes spend what has been described as an “awkward” afternoon with Henry James.


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