The most significant events in the history of books on the 25th of October
On this day in history, October 25, England lost one of its greatest poets, a great historian was born, and a Romantic poet penned one of his most famous poems. An historic day indeed…
1400: According to the date given on his tomb in Westminster Abbey, Geoffrey Chaucer died on this date. The area of the Abbey in which he was entombed would not become known as Poets’ Corner until much later.
1800: Thomas Babington Macaulay is born. The view of history as a march of progress became known as ‘Whiggish’ largely as a result of Macaulay’s own History of England and related works of historical scholarship (he was also a Whig politician, as opposed to a Tory, and so believed in liberal principals and social improvement). His Lays of Ancient Rome, a series of poems written mostly about heroes from that period, was also hugely successful in the nineteenth century.
1819: Percy Shelley writes ‘Ode to the West Wind‘, one of his most widely anthologised poems, in one sitting near Florence, Italy. It ends with the famous hopeful question, ‘If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’
1902: Frank Norris, a novelist whose works include The Octopus: A Story of California (1901), dies, aged just 32, from a ruptured appendix. To convince people he was famous, Norris would reportedly recruit his friends to point at him in restaurants and whisper, ‘That’s him!’
1914: John Berryman is born. An American poet closely associated with the confessional poets (though he himself disliked the label), he is best known for his Dream Songs.
1975: Zadie Smith is born. She rose to prominence with her 2000 novel, published when Smith was only in her mid-twenties. She was a student at Cambridge at the same time as comedy double-act David Mitchell and Robert Webb, who – it is alleged – turned her down for the Cambridge Footlights.
Image: Picture of Frank Norris, by Arnold Genthe, 1903; Wikimedia Commons.