October 1 in Literature: Author of Children’s Classic Dies

The most significant events in the history of books on the 1st of October

What significant events in history occurred on October 1st? In the world of literature and books, the 1st of October saw the birth of an early Gothic novelist and the death of a classic American children’s author…

1760: William Beckford, author of Vathek, is born. Beckford wrote the bestselling Gothic novel Vathek in French in 1782, and left an the English translation up to someone else (it would be translated by a vicar four years later). Beckford, from a wealthy family of sugar plantation owners, was tutored in music by none other than Mozart. His family estate was at Fonthill, where Beckford had the famous Fonthill Abbey built.

1856: Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary begins serialisation in La Revue de Paris. It will go on to attract acclaim and opprobrium (because of its scandalous subject, a married woman having an affair) in equal measure. It is now regarded as a classic of French realism.

1963: John Hegley, Luton-raised performance poet famous for wearing glasses, is born. His books include Glad to VathekWear GlassesCan I Come Down Now, Dad?, and My Dog is a Carrot. His limerick ‘Malcolm‘ was voted Britain’s second favourite comic poem in a 1998 poll.

1985: E. B. White dies. He was the author of two classic children’s books of the twentieth centuryCharlotte’s Web (1952) and Stuart Little (1945). But he was also influential in his role as a contributor to The Elements of Style, the American English style guide which became known as ‘Strunk and White’, after White’s considerable additions to the original 1918 book by William Strunk, Jr. E. B. White also penned the wise words which all writers should try to heed: ‘A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.’

2013: Tom Clancy, author popular thrillers such as Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Hunt for Red October, dies, aged 66. His own thoughts on literature are summed up in this quotation: ‘Literature is written material that, a hundred years after the death of the author, is forced upon high school students.’ He frequently topped the US bestseller lists, and was author of the biggest-selling novels of both 1988 and 1989.

Next: October 2 in literary history.

Image: Frontispiece of William Beckford’s Vathek, 1787; Wikimedia Commons.

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