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October 24 in Literary History: Raymond Chandler Begins Last Novel

The most significant events in the history of books on the 24th of October

Some significant events in history – literary history, that is – have occurred on this day, October 24, down the ages. Among other things, on this day a Python (and historian) revealed that he believed one of England’s greatest poets was murdered…

1851: William Lassell discovers two new moons orbiting Uranus. They will later be named Ariel and Umbriel, after sylphs in Alexander Pope’s 1712 poem The Rape of the Lock. All of the 27 known moons of Uranus are named after characters from Shakespeare’s plays, with three exceptions: Ariel, Umbriel, and Belinda take their names from characters from Pope’s poem. (Ariel also features in The Tempest by Shakespeare, but since this moon was named along with Umbriel, it is generally considered a homage to Pope rather than the Bard.)

1958: Raymond Chandler begins work on his final novel, The Poodle Springs Story. He will die before he can Geoffrey Chaucercomplete it. He had only taken up detective fiction in his mid-forties, producing a small number of novels that are considered classics of the hard-boiled detective fiction genre, including Farewell, My Lovely (1940) and The Long Goodbye (1953). Chandler was the first known person to use the word ‘unputdownable’, in a letter of 1947.

2003: Terry Jones, best-known for a member of Monty Python, gives a lecture at the Library Theatre in Birmingham as part of the Birmingham Book Festival. The subject of the lecture is ‘Who Murdered Chaucer?’ Jones believes that medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer may have been killed by enemies of the deposed king Richard II, who had acted as Chaucer’s patron for many years.

Image: Portrait of Geoffrey Chaucer by Thomas Hoccleve (modified, 2012), Wikimedia Commons.

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