October 31 in Literary History: John Keats Born

The most significant events in the history of books on the 31st of October

A significant day in the calendar, October the 31st, aka Halloween, has also given us some important events in the literary-historical calendar, including the birth of a diarist, a Romantic poet, and a leading mystery novelist…

1620: John Evelyn is born. Although his work as a diarist is often eclipsed by his more famous contemporary, Samuel Pepys, it was the publication of Evelyn’s diary in the early nineteenth century which led to Pepys’ diary being deciphered and then published, in 1825.

1795: John Keats is born. The Romantic poet would fittingly write a poem that is particularly suitable for Halloween – his John Keatsbirthday – which begins ‘‘Tis “the witching time of night”‘ (playing on a line from William Shakespeare‘s Hamlet).

1920: Dick Francis is born. A very popular author of racing-themed mystery novels, Francis was himself a champion jockey who was the rider of the Queen Mother’s horse, Devon Loch, when it fell during the Grand National in 1956, just as it appeared it was set to win the race. Philip Larkin was a big fan of Francis’ novels. Francis died on Valentine’s Day 2010.

But of course today is also Halloween, so we’ve gathered together some interesting literature-related facts about Halloween here. In that post we also provide some suggestions for suitably ghoulish Halloween reading, including Oliver Onions’ ‘The Beckoning Fair One’ (1911), which features a struggling writer who rents a mysterious flat and is haunted by the sound of a woman brushing her hair (it’s more unnerving than it sounds). More chilling reading matter can be found in our selection of Poe’s best tales. You might also enjoy this poem about Halloween from Robert Burns.

Image: John Keats (photogravure after J. Severn), via Wellcome Images; Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Oh I was so enamored of Keats when I was a teenager… :D

  2. I don’t remember ever seeing that Burns poem before today.