The most significant events in the history of books on the 13th of October
1862: Mary Kingsley is born. The niece of author Charles Kingsley (author of The Water-Babies), she will become well-known as a travel writer. Her Travels in West Africa (1897) was a huge bestseller, although Kingsley wouldn’t live long to enjoy the fruits of her success: she contracted typhoid while volunteering as a nurse during the Second Boer War, and died in 1900, aged just 37.
1915: Charles Sorley dies. This Scottish poet is not someone whose name tends to spring to mind when one thinks of poets of the First World War. He was certainly one of the youngest: born in 1895, he was just 20 when he died on this day at the Battle of Loos. But for Robert Graves, in his war memoir Goodbye to All That, Sorley was, along with Isaac Rosenberg and Wilfred Owen, ‘one of the three poets of importance killed during the war.’ His poems would be published posthumously as a book, Marlborough and Other Poems, in 1916. Here is one of his poems, which gives a sense of his unsentimental style:
1934: William Faulkner‘s short story ‘Retreat’ is published in the Saturday Evening Post.
1958: Paddington Bear makes his debut in A Bear Called Paddington. After receiving positive reviews, the initial print run will sell out by Christmas. The Peruvian bear was the creation of Michael Bond, who was inspired to create the character after buying a teddy bear. Bond bought ‘Paddington Bear’ in 1956. He felt sad for the teddy bear as it was the only toy left on the shop’s shelves on Christmas Eve. Bond named the bear Paddington as he was living near the famous London railway station at the time.
1962: Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? premieres at the Billy Rose Theatre (now the David T. Nederlander Theatre) on Broadway. The play, about the failing marriage of two academics, is considered a classic example of the Theatre of the Absurd. Albee got the title from one of his favourite bars, which had a mirror on which customers could write messages and other pieces of graffiti in soap. An anonymous benefactor had scrawled ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ and Albee, who liked the sound of the pun, used it as his play’s title. In the 1966 film version of the play, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, they sing the refrain to the tune of ‘Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush’ rather than ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’, since Disney, who own the rights to the latter tune, were charging too much for the rights to use the tune. Interestingly, in Prague, the play was billed as ‘Who’s Afraid of Franz Kafka?’
Image: The Paddington Bear statue at London Paddington railway station (author: Matt Buck), Wikimedia Commons.