The most significant events in the history of books on the 26th of October
What significant events occurred in history – literary history – on October 26? A great work of satire was published, and a famous author of fairy tales went to school – and one of English history’s most important kings died…
1726: Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, full title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, is published anonymously. The book proves something of an instant bestseller: 10,000 copies will be sold in the first three weeks.
1822: Hans Christian Andersen starts attending a school for eleven year-olds; he is seventeen. Andersen came from a poor background, but a government official managed to get him a scholarship at a school where he was the oldest child by some distance. He would go on, of course, to write some of the most influential and enduring fairy tales in all of European literature, including ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, and ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.
1883: Napoleon Hill is born. He is best remembered for his mega-bestseller, Think and Grow Rich (1937), which has sold an estimated 20 million copies worldwide. (Wikipedia ranks it as the 11th bestselling book of all time.) An account of how Hill became rich and famous, the book became a success story in its own right.
899: Alfred the Great dies. The King of Wessex provides the Oxford English Dictionary with the first recorded use of the word ‘book’ in what might be called English – indeed, in Anglo-Saxon, which gave us the very word ‘English’.
Image: Hans Christian Andersen by George E. Hansen, Wikimedia Commons.
I’m reading Gulliver now (I’ve just started it), and find it to be quite a “modern”-seeming novel. I will of course post a review / commentary when I have finished reading…
Gully’s Travels is not the tame little travelogue everyone thinks it is. I remember studying it in high school and being absolutely mortified reading some of Swift’s exacting detail. Now that I teach it I sagely direct students to parts and supplement with Ted Danson’s film. It is a marvel for satiric wit though.