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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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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War and Politics

Beilby Porteus In one of the many heated debates in the House of Peers regarding England’s participation in the French Revolution in 1794, a noble lord on the opposition quoted a portion of a poem about war written by Bishop Beilby Porteus (1731 – 1809): One murder makes a villain; Millions, a hero! Princes are […]

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Being Laconic Is Harder Than You Think

One time, the publisher of Mark Twain told him through telegram to write a short story: NEED 2-PAGE SHORT STORY TWO DAYS Twain wired back with this: NO CAN DO 2 PAGES TWO DAYS. CAN DO 30 PAGES 2 DAYS. NEED 30 DAYS TO DO 2 PAGES. “I… never could make a good impromptu speech,” […]

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