October 6 in Literature: Alfred Tennyson Dies

The most significant events in the history of books on the 6th of October

1600: Jacopo Peri’s Euridice, the earliest surviving opera, premieres in Florence at the Palazzo Pitti. The opera is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, and more specifically on the Roman poet Ovid’s retelling of it in his Metamorphoses.

1889: Thomas Edison shows his first motion picture. You can watch it here (the film begins at 2:22).

1892: The poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson dies. He had been Poet Laureate since 1850, and his name had come to be synonymous with poetry for many Victorians. Sticking with our theme today of early sound recording, Tennyson was recorded reading several of his poems such as ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade‘, shortly before he died, using early sound-recording equipment. Tennyson also gave us several famous phrases.

1927: 38 years to the day after Edison’s first demonstration of moving pictures, The Jazz Singer – the first Tennysonfull-length talking picture – premieres. What is not widely known is that it was based on a play, The Day of Atonement, by Samson Raphaelson. The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, was not in fact the first ever talking picture – the short five-minute Hollywood film from May earlier in the same year, They’re Coming to Get Me, deserves that honour – but it was the first long film to use dialogue, as well as synchronised sound throughout. It was also the first to be marketed as a ‘talkie’. (A three-hour adaptation of Byron’s Don Juan, from a year earlier and starring John Barrymore, contained synchronised sound but no dialogue.)

1952: Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has its world premiere at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, England. Eight weeks later, it will transfer to London to begin its record-breaking run – it is still running today.

2009: Hilary Mantel wins the Booker Prize for her novel Wolf Hall, about Tudor statesman Thomas Cromwell. The book sought to challenge the hagiography of Sir Thomas More that such works as Robert Bolt’s 1960 play A Man for All Seasons (memorably filmed by Fred Zinnemann in 1966) had established. Mantel would win the Booker Prize again in 2012 for her second novel about Cromwell, Bring Up the Bodies, making her the first woman to win the award twice.

Other notable birthdays: Melvyn Bragg (born 1939), British novelist and television broadcaster, probably most famous for hosting The South Bank Show for many years.

Image: Portrait of Lord Alfred Tennyson by John Everett Millais, Wikimedia Commons.

One Comment

  1. A fine tribute to one of our most influential literary figures. Enjoyed