October 7 in Literature: Edgar Allan Poe Dies

The most significant events in the history of books on the 7th of October

1576: John Marston, poet and playwright, is baptised. He wrote a number of plays for the London stage, the most famous of which is The Malcontent (1604), although perhaps he is more famous these days as the namesake of a character in the video game Red Dead Redemption. So it goes.

1577: Poet George Gascoigne dies. He was the first poet to praise Queen Elizabeth I in writing, at least a decade before Edmund Spenser did so in his epic The Faerie Queene. Gascoigne would also write the first sustained work of prose comedy written in English – a work that would later be used by William Shakespeare as the source material for his The Taming of the Shrew.

1849: Edgar Allan Poe dies, four days after being found delirious outside a polling station on the streets of Baltimore. Fourteen Poe1years later, a ‘psychic’ named Lizzie Doten would publish a book, Poems from the Inner Life, including poems Doten claimed to have transcribed from Poe during a séance with the deceased author. Poe was also a pioneer of the short story, as our pick of our favourite Poe stories demonstrates.

1934: Amiri Baraka is born LeRoi Jones. Baraka was a controversial but important figure in black American poetry. In the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001, Baraka attracted criticism for his poem ‘Somebody Blew Up America‘, which implied that Israel and George W. Bush knew of the attacks before they happened. Baraka died in 2014.

1935: Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s Ark, is born in Sydney, Australia. The novel would win Keneally the Booker Prize in 1982 and would reach a whole new audience eleven years later, when Steven Spielberg filmed it as Schindler’s List.

1937: Christopher Booker, author of the vast (and endlessly informative) book about plot structures, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, is born. Also known for his work on Private Eye, Booker produced his 700-page study of book, film, and opera plots in 2004. It is included in our pick of the best books about literature.

1938: The P. G. Wodehouse novel The Code of the Woosters: (Jeeves & Wooster), regarded by many Wodehouse fans as his finest achievement, is published. We gathered together ten great Wodehouse coinages in a previous post.

1955: Allen Ginsberg performs his poem Howl for the first time, at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. Poet Michael McClure, who was present at the reading, later recalled: ‘Ginsberg read on to the end of the poem, which left us standing in wonder, or cheering and wondering, but knowing at the deepest level that a barrier had been broken, that a human voice and body had been hurled against the harsh wall of America.’

Image: Cropped image from the famous E.A. Poe daguerreotype, W.S. Hartshorn (1848 daguerreotype), C.T. Tatman (1904 photo of a c. 1848-1860 photo of daguerreotype missing since 1860), public domain.

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