Interesting Facts about Robinson Crusoe

Fun facts about Daniel Defoe’s classic novel Robinson Crusoe, with an interesting summary of its impact

Robinson Crusoe, often called the first English novel, is the tale of one man’s survival on a desert island following a shipwreck – although Crusoe later discovers the island isn’t as deserted as he first thought. The longer, considerably less snappy title of the novel which appeared on the title-page of the first edition in 1719 read: The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates. What follows are some of our favourite facts about Robinson Crusoe (as the novel is more commonly known).  Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about Anthony Trollope

A short biography of Anthony Trollope, told in five interesting pieces of trivia

1. Trollope invented the postbox. Well, sort of. Born in 1815, Trollope worked for the Post Office for 33 years until his retirement in 1867 – by which time he was making so much money from his writing that he could afford to live by his pen full-time. During his time as surveyor general of the Post Office, he introduced the pillar box to Britain when they were trialled on the island of Jersey in 1854 (they were introduced to mainland Britain a year later). The pillar boxes were originally painted green, but in 1874 they were changed to red – supposedly because people kept bumping into them.  Read the rest of this entry

45 Great Sourced Quotes about Books

The best quotes about books, from some of the most famous writers in the world

Here is a list of our favourite quotes about books from various writers, some famous, some not so famous. We’ve only included those quotations for which we’ve managed to track down a source, whether in print or online, so you know these are authentic quotes about books, rather than of the amusing-but-apocryphal kind.

When I was a child I read books far too old for me and sometimes far too young for me. Every reading child is different. Introduce them to the love of reading, show them the way to the library and let them get on with it. – Terry Pratchett, No to Age Banding Campaign

Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know. – John Keats, letter of August 28, 1819 to his sister Fanny Keats

If you want to read a perfect book there is only one way: write it. – Ambrose Bierce, A Cynic Looks at Life

The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books. – Katherine Mansfield, letter to Ottoline Morrell, January 1922

The author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children. – Benjamin Disraeli, speech given in Glasgow, 1870  Read the rest of this entry

Interesting Facts about Magna Carta

A short and interesting history of Magna Carta and its surprising legacy

So few of the facts about Magna Carta in popular circulation are true. Its enduring place in popular consciousness is, however, indisputable. Its influence even extends to music: Kurt Weill composed a cantata, The Ballad of Magna Carta, about it. The rapper Jay Z even named his twelfth album after Magna Carta (albeit more because of a pun on his real name, Carter, than because he is a fan of the document, we assume).

Magna Carta wasn’t the first such charter: a century before, Henry I of England had issued a coronation charter in 1100, comprising 20 clauses. Yet it was Magna Carta that lasted in the English – indeed, the world’s – memory. The story of disgruntled barons forcing King John to sign a charter that would provide them – and other Englishmen – with liberties and rights that the tyrannical king had denied them is part of English folklore, bound up with the tales of the valiant Robin Hood countering John’s brutal rule by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. (Though as we discussed in our Interesting Facts about Robin Hood, this is a later myth and the original story of Robin Hood was quite different.)

And we all know where and when King John signed Magna Carta: ‘Runnymede, in 1215.’ Except that he didn’t sign it – Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about Gerard Manley Hopkins

The life of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins told through five great pieces of trivia

1. He kept a record of the dirty things he got up to. In his diaries, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) would write ‘O. H.’ whenever he had succumbed to the temptation to, shall we say, pleasure himself. This stood for ‘Old Habits’, but scholars are now largely agreed on what Hopkins was hinting at. As a Jesuit priest of strict self-control – he burned his early poems in 1868 when he joined the Society of Jesus, as he believed that even writing poetry was too self-indulgent for a man of God – he didn’t look kindly on himself when he gave in to these ‘old habits’. Hopkins was homosexual, and homoerotic undercurrents run throughout his work, though as far as we know he never had a romantic relationship with anyone. He also – controversially – viewed writing as a peculiarly ‘male gift’, drawing a covert link between pens and penises, as Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar pointed out. But lest you think the only interesting Hopkins facts relate to sex, let’s turn to more wholesome pursuits, shall we? Let’s turn to poetry…  Read the rest of this entry

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