Some Weird Index Cross-References

The Monthly Magazine for June 1801 talked about a weird and curious cross-references found in William Hawkins’ Treatise of the Pleas of the Crown (1795, 7th ed.). The magazine observed that “a plain, unlettered man is led to suspect that the writer of the volume and the writer of the index are playing at cross purposes.” Here are some […]

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Gleanings from the Past #90

The Persistence of Memory What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an […]

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Mark Twain’s Plan to Make a Bestseller

When Mark Twain published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876, a Canadian publisher pirated it which negatively affected its sales in the US and overseas. The bootlegged edition of the books proved to be more popular due to th8eir cheap price. Twain learned from this so he wanted to make sure that this wouldn’t […]

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Memory and Forgetfulness

Themistocles, when Simonides said that he would teach him mnemonics, or the art of improving one’s memory, replied that he would rather learn the art of forgetfulness: Memory, and thou, Forgetfulness, all hail! Each in her province greatly may avail. Memory, of all things good remind us still: Forgetfulness, obliterate all that’s ill. This was […]

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Gleanings from the Past #88

Fortune Fortune, they say, doth give too much to many; But yet she never gave enough to any. — John Harington, 1600, quoted in The London Quarterly Review, January 1865 Behind every successful fortune there is a crime. — Mario Puzo, The Godfather, 1969 Writing Novels A man who is not born with the novel-writing […]

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Gleanings from the Past #87

Geometry and Poetry Geometry seems to stand for all that is practical, poetry for all that is visionary, but in the kingdom of the imagination you will find them close akin, and they should go together as a precious heritage to every youth. — Florence Milner, School Review, 1898 Epitaph on Richard Adlam In the romantic village […]

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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 #85

Consonants and Vowels In normal speech there are four times as many consonants as vowels, corresponding to the relation between breathing and blood circulation (eighteen breaths to seventy-two pulsebeats). — Noah Jonathan Jacobs, Naming Day in Eden: The Creation and Recreation of Language, 1958 Natural Vanity Lord Houghton’s vanity is amusingly natural. Something was said […]

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Literary Rejection Letter

American writer Gertrude Stein (1874 – 1946) received the following quaint rejection letter from editor A. J. Fifield: I am only one, only one, only. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one […]

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An Engineered Literary Hoax

In September 1810, Scottish writer Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) wrote a letter to Robert Southey (1774 – 1843) relating about a plagiarism allegation he received from an anonymous individual: A witty rogue, the other day, who sent me a letter subscribed “Detector,” proved me guilty of stealing a passage from one of Vida’s Latin […]

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