Today in Literary History

Victor Hugo elected after four previous failed attempts to the Academie Francaise on this day in 1841.


Today in Literary History Aug. 9: Anne Elliot born, Melville escapes, de Saint-Exupery goes missing

1787: On this day, Anne Elliot, second daughter of the vain and imperious Sir Walter and his wife Lady Elizabeth, was born in Kellynch Hall, Somersetshire. While her fictional counterpart Elizabeth Bennett is considered Jane Austen’s most famous creation, Anne Elliot has her many fans, including me, who found her a more realistic character and the one, in my opinion, who was the most credible and likeable. 1842: After being […]


Today in Literary History June 6: Ray Bradbury dies in California

Reading for the first time Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham for the inaugural meeting of the A.C.I.B.C. (Hello, N.!) and struck once again by how good good science fiction writing can be with universal truths taken so matter-of-factly. One of literature’s greats, not just in science fiction, died this morning. Ray Bradbury, born in Waukegan, Ill. but a Los Angeles resident since he was 13, is most famously known […]


Today in Literary History June 4: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is published

Georgia author Carson McCullers has her debut novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter published on this day in 1940. She is just 23 years old when this critically acclaimed debut brings her international recognition, propelling to the forefront of Southern writers. The struggles of deaf mute John Singer is at the centre of the universe in this novel. Mick Kelly, the character McCullers makes her surrogate, is a young […]


Today in Literary History April 9: Samuel Clemens completes his apprenticeship

On this day in 1859, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) gets his license as a pilot of Missippi steamboats in the District of St. Louis after completing a two-year apprenticeship. He would later write about his experiences in the book Life on the Mississippi.


Literary History Today March 9: Auden reviews Wilde's life

In a New Yorker review of Oscar Wilde’s letters published on this day in 1963, W.E. Auden wrote “From the beginning Wilde performed his life and continued to do so even after fate had taken the plot out of his hands.”    


Literary History Today March 6: Gabriel Garcia Marquez born

  On this day in 1928, Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez is born in Arataca, Colombia. His grandmother was the first to tell him stories when he was a child about magical events and later in his writings, Marquez would be a founder of the school known as “magical realism.” Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize in 1982 and his most famous work Love in the Time of Cholera […]


Literary History Today March 5: Frank Norris born

    Frank Norris, who was born on this day in 1870 in Chicago made his way westward and became the quintessential California author.  His major work McTeague is still taught in university classes there as a example of early 20th century literature. Who told me that? The bartender at McTeague’s Saloon in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. “If you study any kind of California literature, you run across Frank Norris,” […]


Literary History Today Feb 28: Henry James dies in London

Henry James dies in London at the age of 72 on this day in 1916 after suffering a stroke two months earlier. As a young boy, James was tutored by governesses and shuttled back and forth between Europe and America. He went to Harvard Law School and was set to be a “man of letters” writing criticisms and essays. But today, James is most well-known as a novelist and with […]


Literary History Today Feb 27: John Steinbeck born in Salinas, CA

  On this day in 1902, John Steinbeck, the grandson of German immigrants who settled in central California, was born to failed businessman Ernst and schoolteacher Olive. “He will either be a genius or amount to nothing,” Olive once surmised about her son. At the John Steinbeck National Center in Salinas earlier this month, I met a group of visitors from Germany who were big fans of the author. They […]