The most significant events in the history of books on the 29th of October
On this day in literary history: a historian loses his head, a celebrated biographer comes into the world, and various other historic events in the annals of literature took place…
1618: Sir Walter Raleigh is beheaded. He had been imprisoned in the Tower of London not by Elizabeth I, as is widely believed, but her successor, the Stuart king James I. It was while locked up in the Tower that he wrote his History of the World. He was released briefly but was eventually executed by beheading. Raleigh’s name, by the way, is spelled some 70 different ways in documents from his lifetime.
1882: Playwright Jean Giraudoux is born. He once remarked, ‘Nothing is ever so wrong in this world that a sensible woman can’t set it right in the course of an afternoon.’
1905: Novelist Henry Green is born Henry Vincent Yorke.
1910: A. J. Ayer is born. Known as ‘Freddie’, Alfred Jules Ayer was a leading philosopher of the mid-twentieth century and was closely associated with Bertrand Russell. He would also become the stepfather to Nigella Lawson, when he married Vanessa Salmon, his fourth marriage.
1924: Frances Hodgson Burnett dies. Her most enduring book is probably the children’s novel The Secret Garden (1911), although Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) also remains popular. Indeed, the obituaries that followed her death all mentioned Fauntleroy and failed to mention The Secret Garden. Posterity has not forgotten the novel so easily.
Image: Frances Hodgson Burnett, by Herbert Rose Barraud (1845-96), public domain.