The most significant events in the history of books on the 15th of October
An exciting day in the annals of literary (and cinematic) history, October the 15th saw the birth of a classical poet, a master of the comic novel, and the release of an historic new science fiction film…
1764: Hearing a group of friars singing in the Temple of Jupiter in Rome, Edward Gibbon is inspired to write The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, his landmark work of historical scholarship.
70 BC: Roman poet Virgil is born. The Latin phrase round the edge of a UK £1 coin, decus et tutamen, means ‘an ornament and a safeguard’ and is taken from Virgil’s epic poem the Aeneid.
1844: Friedrich Nietzsche is born. Known for originating such ideas as the Übermensch and the Will to Power (which would later influence Hitler, infamously), he was also the first philosopher to use a typewriter (though reportedly he didn’t last long with one, and went back to pen and paper).
1881: P. G. Wodehouse is born. Known affectionately as ‘Plum’, he will begin his writing career as the agony uncle for the problems page of the journal Tit-Bits. He once opined: ‘There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.’
1905: C. P. Snow is born. He is best-remembered for originating the idea of ‘Two Cultures’ – the sciences and the humanities – which forms the basis of a 1959 lecture he gave, as well as his campus novel The Masters. His ideas would be influential on the formation of Keele University in Staffordshire, England.
1929: The film Woman on the Moon, written and directed by Fritz Lang (best known for Metropolis), is released. Based on a novel by Lang’s wife and collaborator, Thea von Harbou, titled Die Frau im Mond (The Woman to the Moon), Lang’s film is considered one of the first serious science fiction films, and helped to introduce many viewers to the idea of space travel (a term that made its debut in the same year) for the first time.
Also born on this day Italo Calvino (1923), author of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, a 1979 work of experimental fiction; and Michel Foucault (1926), influential philosopher and poststructuralist theorist.
More historic literary landmarks are in tomorrow’s post on October 16 in literary history.