The most significant events in the history of books on the 30th of October
On this day, October the 30th, literary history witnessed a momentous radio performance from Orson Welles, and the birth of one of the leading figures in modernist poetry…
1751: Richard Brinsley Sheridan is born. An Irish playwright and one of the owners of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, he would become a hugely popular dramatist before he even turned 30 years of age, with such plays as The Rivals (1775, staged when Sheridan was just 23) and The School for Scandal (1777). He is buried in Poets’ Corner.
1871: Paul Valéry is born. This French poet was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature on no fewer than twelve different occasions. He is eminently quotable, once observing, ‘A poem is never finished, merely abandoned’ and, ‘If some great catastrophe is not announced every morning in the newspaper, we feel a certain void.’
1885: Ezra Pound is born. Pound is a fascinating poet and figure in the history of modernist literature, and along with T. S. Eliot he is the leading poet associated with Anglo-American modernist poetry. His monumental work The Cantos, which occupied him for nearly fifty years of his life, is his magnum opus – though how many people have actually read the whole poem? (We exempt ourselves here, as this sort of thing is in our line.) Although Eliot’s influence was undoubtedly greater, Pound’s role as a cultural lightning-rod in the modernist movement was affirmed by Hugh Kenner in his vast and fascinating 1971 work of literary history, The Pound Era, which placed Pound at the centre of the modernist movement.
1938: Orson Welles broadcasts The War of the Worlds. The ‘panic’ which the radio broadcast supposedly caused was exaggerated, to say the least. The story goes that many Americans mistook the fictional broadcast for a real news bulletin about a Martian invasion, but this appears to have been largely propaganda spun by the press, which wished to portray the relatively new radio as an untrustworthy disseminator of news.
Image: Ezra Pound photographed in Kensington, London, October 22, 1913. Photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn, first published in Coburn’s More Men of Mark (New York: Knopf, 1922); Wikimedia Commons; public domain.