When Edmund Spenser Showed His Poem to Elizabeth I

Eminent poet Edmund Spenser (1552/1553 – 1599) lived during the Elizabethan era. His most famous work is The Faerie Queene, an epic poem with an allegorical theme in praise of the Tudor dynasty and Queen Elizabeth I. The unique verse form (at the time) used in this work was invented by Spenser, which would later be […]

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Gleanings From the Past #86

Circumstances We are strange beings, we seem to go free, but we go in chains — chains of training, custom, convention, association, environment—in a word. Circumstance — and against these bonds the strongest of us struggle in vain. — Mark Twain, “3,000 Years Among the Microbes”, 1905 A man is worked upon by what he works on. He […]

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“Were My Obituaries Good?”

During the Cyprus coup of 1974, it was reported that Archbishop Makarios III (1913 – 1977) died. However, the news was proven to be false when the said Archbishop reappeared sometime later. When asked about his reaction on the news of his apparent death, he said, “You should have known it was not easy for […]

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Short-Term Memory

Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)  once boasted about his amazing memory prowess to his friend Bennet Langton (1736 – 1801). As a demonstration, he said that he can recite an entire chapter of The Natural History of Iceland, a 1758 translation of Niels Horrebow’s work. When asked to prove his claim, he said: Chap. LXXII. Concerning […]

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Deep Lines

T. S. Eliot (left) and Carl Sandburg (right) In the January 19, 1980 edition of the New York Times Book Review, editor T. O’Connor Sloane III told the following story: Many years ago, when Robert Giroux was editor-in-chief of Harcourt, Brace, he told me this little anecdote. He was expecting a visit from T. S. Eliot one […]

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Checks Written in Blood

Charles K. Feldman (left) and Alexander Korda (right) Film producer Charles K. Feldman (1905 – 1968) related this story: I lost at gin rummy with Alexander Korda one evening, and mailed him a check next day. It was written in red ink, and accompanied by this note: “Dear Alex: You will see that this check is written in […]

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“This Is Trivial” (Or Is It?)

There was a popular anecdote about mathematician G. H. Hardy (1877 – 1947) that goes like this: While conducting a lecture on Number Theory, he said that a certain mathematical notion was trivial. But after a little while, he hesitated and asked, “Is it trivial?” He then excused himself and went to his office. After […]

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Truth in Advertising

I am unable to verify the authenticity of the following story. Nevertheless, it’s quite interesting. When Frank Winfield Woolworth (the founder of F. W. Woolworth Company) first opened his store, a businessman in the area felt threatened. So, he advertised in the local paper. The ad read: DO YOUR LOCAL SHOPPING HERE. WE HAVE BEEN IN BUSINESS […]

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Instant Alliteration

One day in 1840, American physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894) attended a party in which the host kept talking about the achievements of her friends. Expecting to receive some comments of admiration from the doctor, the host asked him when he was getting ready to leave: “Dr. Holmes, what do you […]

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