The most significant events in the history of books on the 8th of October
1754: Henry Fielding dies. He had begun his career as a stage satirist poking fun at Robert Walpole – the first de facto Prime Minister of Britain – in the early 1730s, until the Licensing Act and theatre censorship put paid to that. Fielding turned instead to the novel, an emerging new literary form at the time, producing his masterpiece, the vast novel Tom Jones, in 1749. He also found time to set up the Bow Street Runners, the forerunners (as it were) to the Metropolitan Police Force in London.
1865: Gerard Manley Hopkins records in his (fascinating) journal that he is considering converting to Catholicism, having been influenced at Oxford by the teachings of Cardinal Newman. Hopkins would go on to become a Jesuit priest and, of course, one of the most important poets of the Victorian era – though few of his poems would be published before 1918. We offer a short introduction to one of his most famous poems, ‘The Windhover’, here.
1943: R. L. Stine, author of Goosebumps and other children’s books, is born. He once received what can perhaps best be described as an ‘anti-fan letter’ from a disgruntled young reader: ‘I’ve read 40 of your books and I think they’re really boring.’
Other notable birthdays:
Harriet Taylor Mill, wife of John Stuart Mill, and an important early feminist (born 1807).
Actress Sigourney Weaver (born 1949), who would take her stage name from Mrs Sigourney Howard, a character mentioned in The Great Gatsby.
Blake Morrison (born 1950), perhaps best known for his memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father? (1993).